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Is older blood better for transfusions?

A research trial has found the transfusion of older stored red blood cells is safe – and associated with fewer side effects.

In the TRANSFUSE trial researchers from the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Centre at Monash University in Melbourne led teams in five countries to investigate the effect of the age of transfused red blood cells on critically ill patients’ outcomes.

The team demonstrated that fresher blood was no better than older blood. Unexpectedly, they also found fewer transfusion reactions, including fever, with the older blood; and in the most severely ill patients, the transfusion of older blood was associated with fewer deaths.

Lead researcher Professor Jamie Cooper said: “Older blood appears to be like a good red wine – better with some age. The findings of our trial confirm that the current duration of storage of red blood cells for transfusion is both safe and optimal.”

Routine practice in Australia is to allocate the oldest compatible blood. The study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine

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