Intraoperative red blood cell transfusion, delayed graft function, and infection after kidney transplant: an observational cohort study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Anesthesia








Infection; Kidney transplant; Sepsis; Transfusion


Background: Kidney transplant patients are frequently anemic and at risk for red blood cell (RBC) transfusion. Previous studies suggest that pre-transplant RBC transfusion may improve kidney transplant outcomes; however, RBC transfusion is also associated with infection. The purpose of our study was to characterize the relationships between intraoperative RBC transfusion, delayed graft function (DGF), postoperative surgical site infection (SSI), and sepsis. Methods: Analysis was performed on a historical cohort of adult kidney transplant patients from a single medical center during a two-year period. Crude odds ratios for DGF, superficial and deep SSI, and sepsis were calculated for transfused patients and multivariate regression was used to control for potential confounders when significant relationships were identified. Results: Four hundred forty-one patients had kidney transplant during the study period; 27.0% had RBC transfusion, 38.8% had DGF, 7.0% had superficial SSI, 7.9% had deep SSI, and 1.8% had sepsis. High dose RBC transfusion was associated with improved graft function, but this was negated after adjusting for confounders (OR = 0.86, 95% CI 0.26 to 2.88). There was no association between RBC transfusion and SSI. RBC transfusion was independently associated with sepsis (OR = 8.98, 95% CI 1.52 to 53.22), but the confidence interval was wide. Conclusions: Intraoperative RBC transfusion during kidney transplant is not associated with improved allograft function or incisional SSI, but is associated with postoperative sepsis. RBCs should not be liberally transfused during kidney transplant surgery to improve graft outcomes.