Variation in the use of red blood cell transfusions: A study of four common medical and surgical conditions

Peggy B. Hasley*, Judith R. Lave, Barbara H. Hanusa, Vincent C. Arena, Glenn Ramsey, Wishwa N. Kapoor, Michael J. Fine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


This study assessed variation in red cell transfusion practice among adult patients hospitalized with ulcer disease (ULCER), and those undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), hip surgery (HIP), or total knee re-placement (KNEE). The study design was a retrospective analysis of the 1989 MedisGroups Hospital Comparative Database, and the participants were adult patients presenting for their first admission with ULCER (N = 4,664), CABG (N = 6,812), HIP (N = 4,131) or KNEE (N = 3,042) in the MedisGroups Hospital Comparative Database. Outcome measures were whether a patient was transfused, and the number of units transfused. Logistic regression was used to analyze the decision to transfuse, and linear regression to analyze the number of units transfused. In these analyses, patient characteristics, hospital characteristics, and unique hospital identity were used as independent variables. The percentage of patients transfused was ULCER 50%, CABG 81%, HIP 69%, and KNEE 51%. The range among hospitals in the percentage of patients transfused was ULCER 11% to 76%, CABG 51% to 100%, HIP 36% to 95%, and KNEE 9% to 97%. When only patient characteristics were entered in the linear regression analyses, the R2 values were ULCER 0.33, CABG 0.11, HIP 0.11, and KNEE 0.07. When hospital was added, the R2 increased to UL-CER 0.38, CABG 0.29, HIP 0.19, and KNEE 0.20 (P < 0.0001 for the change for all analyses). The results of the logistic regression analyses of the probability of transfusion were similar. There is substantial interhospital variation in the proportion of patients transfused and number of units transfused in the four conditions studied. Patient demographic and clinical characteristics explain a substantial proportion of the variation in transfusion practices for ulcer pa-tients, but little of the variation in the three surgical conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1145-1160
Number of pages16
JournalMedical care
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1995


  • Practice variation
  • Red cell transfusion
  • Transfusion variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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