A blood transfusion is an acute intervention, implemented to solve life and health-threatening conditions on a short-term basis. However, blood transfusions have adverse events, some of them potentially related to immune modulation or to a direct transmission of infectious agents (e.g. cytomegalovirus). Leukoreduction is a process in which the white blood cells are intentionally reduced in packed red blood cells (PRBCs) in order to reduce the risk of adverse reactions. The potential benefits of leukoreduced PRBCs in all types of transfused patients for decreasing infectious and non-infectious complications remain unclear.
To determine the clinical effectiveness of leukoreduction of packed red blood cells for preventing adverse reactions following allogeneic blood transfusion.
We ran the most recent search on 10th November 2015. We searched the Cochrane Injuries Group's Specialised Register, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, the Cochrane Library), MEDLINE (OvidSP), Embase(OvidSP), CINAHL Plus (EBSCO), LILACS (BIREME), and clinical trials registers. In addition, we checked the reference lists of all relevant trials and reviews identified in the literature searches.
Randomised clinical trials including patients of all ages requiring PRBC allogeneic transfusion. Any study was eligible for inclusion, regardless of the length of participant follow-up or country where the study was performed. The primary outcome was transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI). Secondary outcomes were death from any cause, infection from any cause, non-infectious complications and any other adverse event.
At least two review authors independently performed study selection, 'Risk of bias' assessments and data extraction. We estimated pooled relative risk for dichotomous outcomes, and we measured statistical heterogeneity using I² statistic. The random-effects model was used to synthesise results. We conducted a trial sequential analysis to assess the risk of random errors in cumulative meta-analyses.
Thirteen studies, most including adult patients, met the eligibility criteria. We found no clear evidence of an effect of leukoreduced PRBC versus non-leukoreduced PRBC in patients that were randomised to receive transfusion for the following outcomes: TRALI: RR 0.96, 95% CI 0.67 to 1.36, P = 0.80 from one trial reporting data on 1864 trauma patients. The accrued information of 1864 participants constituted only 28.5% of the diversity-adjusted required information size (DARIS) of 6548 participants. The quality of evidence was low. Death from any cause: RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.58 to 1.12, I² statistic = 63%, P = 0.20 from nine trials reporting data on 6485 cardiovascular surgical patients, gastro-oncology surgical patients, trauma patients and HIV infected patients. The accrued information of 6485 participants constituted only 55.3% of the DARIS of 11,735 participants. The quality of evidence was very low. Infection from any cause: RR 0.80, 95% CI 0.62 to 1.03, I² statistic = 84%, P = 0.08 from 10 trials reporting data on 6709 cardiovascular surgical patients, gastro-oncology surgical patients, trauma patients and HIV infected patients. The accrued information of 6709 participants constituted only 60.6% of the DARIS of 11,062 participants. The quality of evidence was very low. Adverse events: The only adverse event reported as an adverse event was fever (RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.64 to 1.02; I² statistic= 0%, P = 0.07). Fever was reported in two trials on 634 cardiovascular surgical and gastro-oncology surgical patients. The accrued information of 634 participants constituted only 84.4% of the DARIS of 751 participants. The quality of evidence was low. Incidence of other non-infectious complications: This outcome was not assessed in any included trial.
There is no clear evidence for supporting or rejecting the routine use of leukoreduction in all patients requiring PRBC transfusion for preventing TRALI, death, infection, non-infectious complications and other adverse events. As the quality of evidence is very low to low, more evidence is needed before a definitive conclusion can be drawn.