Different transfusion approaches for helping heart attack patients who develop anemia recover led to similar 30-day outcomes

Nov. 14, 2023
NIH-funded findings suggest potential benefit of giving more blood to patients.

A National Institutes of Health-supported study found that the type of transfusion approach used to support adults who developed anemia after a heart attack did not make a significant difference in their likelihood of having another heart attack or dying within 30 days.

Participants in the trial were randomized to receive a red blood cell transfusion when their red blood cell counts were in a prespecified range of moderate anemia, which is considered a liberal approach, or when it was more severe, a restrictive approach.

However, the researchers found that some adults who received blood at an earlier stage appeared to have slightly better health outcomes. Researchers encourage a flexible, nuanced approach in making these transfusion decisions.

The findings, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the American Heart Association’s 2023 Scientific Sessions, emerged from the Myocardial Ischemia and Transfusion (MINT) trial, a five-year, phase 3, randomized controlled study that started in 2017 to assess differences between the two transfusion approaches. Data from more than 3,500 participants from 144 sites in six countries were included in this analysis.

In the current study, researchers found no statistically significant differences between the transfusion approaches based on the number of heart attacks and deaths, the study’s primary outcomes. Additionally, neither approach introduced unnecessary risks for harm. Among 1,749 participants in the restrictive transfusion arm, 295, or 16.9%, experienced a heart attack or death, compared to 255, or 14.5%, of 1,755 participants in the liberal arm.

The researchers observed benefits with the liberal strategy when they examined results for two other outcomes — unplanned heart surgery and cardiac rehospitalization — in addition to heart attacks and death. Based on these measurements, the researchers found that 8.3% of adults in the liberal transfusion arm, compared to 9.9% in the restrictive arm, died during the 30-day follow-up period. About 17% of participants in the liberal arm, compared to 20% in the restrictive arm, experienced a major adverse event.

Throughout the 30 days, less than 1 unit of red blood cells was used per participant in the restrictive transfusion arm compared to 2.5 units in the liberal transfusion arm.

NIH release

Photo 52014560 © Bogdanhoda | Dreamstime.com
Photo 18517528 © Christophe Avril | Dreamstime.com
Photo 108389214 © Ivan Shidlovski | Dreamstime.com
Photo 293671412 © Nataliagh | Dreamstime.com