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JAMA Clinical Guidelines Synopsis
November 15, 2016

Transfusion of Red Blood Cells

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.

JAMA. 2016;316(19):2038-2039. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.12870

Red blood cell transfusion is a common and potentially life-saving intervention, yet balancing the harms, benefits, scarcity of blood products, and cost remains complex. More than 13 million units of RBCs were transfused in the United States in 2013.1 Transfusions are safe, with only 0.24% accompanied by an adverse reaction, and life-threatening transfusion reactions occur at a rate of only 15.1 per 1 million blood components transfused.2 The average cost paid by hospitals to transfuse 1 RBC unit is $225.42, while the reimbursement rate from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is $194.86, resulting in a net loss to hospitals of 13.6%.