Society for the Advancement of Patient Blood Management

Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question

Released July 23, 2018; Updated July 1, 2021; Updated July 20, 2022

  1. 1

    Don’t proceed with elective surgery in patients with anemia until properly diagnosed and treated.

    Anemia is common, presenting in approximately one-third of patients undergoing elective surgery. There is often the misconception that anemia is harmless, when, in fact, it is independently associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Appropriate diagnosis followed by treatment of anemia improves blood health, optimizes patient readiness for surgery, aids in management of comorbid conditions, decreases length of stay and readmission rates, and minimizes the need for transfusion. Treatment modalities may include nutritional supplementations, such as iron, B12 and folate, changes in medication, management of chronic inflammatory conditions, or other interventions based on the etiology. It is optimal to allow 2-4 weeks, when possible, for diagnosis and management prior to surgery to allow for optimal hemoglobin recovery.

  2. 2

    Don’t perform laboratory blood testing unless clinically indicated so that the risk of iatrogenic anemia is minimized.

    Up to 90% of patients become anemic by day 3 in the intensive care unit. Although laboratory testing can aid in diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease, a significant number of tests are inappropriate or unnecessary. Anemia secondary to iatrogenic blood loss causes an increased length of stay and increases the odds for transfusion and its associated risks. Unnecessary laboratory testing adds to the cost of care through laboratory test charges and also by increasing downstream costs due to unnecessary interventions, prescriptions, etc. Thus judicious use of laboratory testing is recommended, and testing should not be performed in the absence of clinical indications.

  3. 3

    Don’t transfuse plasma in the absence of active bleeding or significant clinical and laboratory evidence of coagulopathy.

    Recent studies demonstrate that plasma is often transfused inappropriately. In the absence of active bleeding and clear evidence of coagulopathy, current literature shows no reduction in blood loss or transfusion requirements with the use of plasma. Transfusion of plasma may lead to an increased risk of transfusion-associated adverse events such as transfusion-related acute lung injury, transfusion-associated circulatory overload and allergic reactions. These adverse events lead to poorer outcomes and increased cost of care.

  4. 4

    Avoid bleeding and reduce transfusion risk by employing antifibrinolytic drugs.

    Antifibrinolytic pharmacologic therapy has been shown to reduce blood loss and transfusion requirements in cardiovascular and non-cardiac surgeries. Early administration of tranexamic acid, specifically within three hours, in trauma and obstetric hemorrhage, significantly reduces mortality and bleeding. Numerous clinical trials utilizing antifibrinolytic therapy found reduced overall mortality and bleeding-related mortality without increased risk for thromboembolic events.

  5. 5

    Avoid transfusion, outside of emergencies, when alternative strategies are available as part of informed consent; include a discussion about alternative strategies during the informed consent process.

    Informed choice/consent regarding transfusion and effective alternatives should be standardized and consistently delivered. Throughout the world, there is wide variation amongst medical practitioners and hospitals in the delivery of information to patients regarding the risks of and alternatives to transfusion. Outside of the truly emergent clinical situation, transfusion should be avoided or limited when other interventions are available to manage and preserve the patient’s own blood. This promotes patient empowerment and engagement. Alternative strategies to transfusion include, but are not limited to, pharmacologic agents, cell salvage, normovolemic hemodilution, and minimally-invasive surgical techniques. Additionally, transfusions may not be necessary in asymptomatic patients even in the presence of low hemoglobin concentrations.

These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

The Society for the Advancement of Patient Blood Management (SABM) was founded in 2001 by health care providers, nurses and physicians who saw the need for a new way of thinking about transfusion as a therapy. SABM included thought leaders who promulgated the concept of patient blood management as the new standard of care. The SABM mission is broad, its foundation based on appropriate evidence-based transfusion guidelines, the management of anemia, optimization of coagulation and minimization of bleeding, and utilization of interdisciplinary blood conservation strategies. The goal is improved patient outcomes.

Today, SABM is recognized as a key educational resource for patient blood management. SABM is grounded in scientific validation and evidencebased practices, and focused on promoting the patients’ best interest through effective and optimal patient blood management. Given our mission and message, SABM is truly honored and proud to partner with the Choosing Wisely® campaign.

How This List Was Created

The Executive Committee and Board of Directors (BOD) of the Society for the Advancement of Patient Blood Management (SABM) had a strong desire to participate in the Choosing Wisely campaign. Participation allows SABM to align with the national Choosing Wisely® team and other specialty societies to further the mission of collaborative physician-patient health care delivery and responsible use of resources.

A Task Force was appointed from within the BOD to draft the initial set of recommendations. Evidence-based recommendations were based on our society’s foundational pillars and structured around published SABM Standards. A critical feature was the review of relevant literature for supporting evidence applicable to each statement. Ultimately, the draft recommendations were submitted to the membership for input via an email survey. This resulted in the final five statements for which evidentiary materials and pertinent references were written. The BOD approved the materials prior to submission. Recent review with updates was undertaken by the SABM Educational Oversight Committee.

Working with this initiative, our selected recommendations and integrated materials were further honed based on subsequent campaign review. This list and supporting material resulted in a publication in a peer-reviewed journal in 2019. SABM will also develop monitors to assess the impact of the initiative for our members and hospital affiliates. We foresee this as a vehicle for outreach to other professional societies, health care providers and patients.


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    Beattie WS, Karkouti K, Wijeysundera DN, Tait G et al. Risk associated with preoperative anemia in non-cardiac surgery; a single-center cohort study. Anesthesiology 2009; 110 (3): 574-581.

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    Green L, Bolton-Maggs P, Beattie C et al. British Society of Haematology guidelines on the spectrum of fresh frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate products: their handling and use in various patient groups in the absence of major bleeding. Brit J Haematol 2018; 181(1): 54-67.

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    CRASH-2 Trial Collaborators Effects of tranexamic acid on death, vasoocclusive events, and blood transfusion in trauma patients with significant haemorrhage (CRASH-2): a randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet 2010; 376(9734): 23-32.

    WOMAN Trial Collaborators Effect of early tranexamic acid administration on mortality, hysterectomy, and other morbidities in women with post-partum haemorrhage (WOMAN): an international, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet 2017; 389(10084): 2105-2116.

    Taeuber I, Weibel S, Herrmann E et al. Association of intravenous tranexamic acid with thromboembolic events and mortality: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression. JAMA Surg 2021; doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2021.0884.

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    Booth C, Grant-Casey J, Court EL et al. National comparative audit of blood transfusion: report on the 2014 audit of patient information and consent. Transfus Med 2017: 21(3): 183-189.

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    Shander A, Hardy JF, Ozawa S, Farmer SL, Hofmann A, Frank SM, Kor DJ, Faraoni D, Freedman J; Collaborators. A Global Definition of Patient Blood Management. Anesth Analg. 2022 Feb 10. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000005873. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35147598.