Palliative care is a proactive and personalized approach for improving physical and spiritual problems in terminally ill patients. Cancer patients with symptom or treatment-related anemia heavily rely on palliative care and many receive transfusions to help alleviate their suffering. In order to assess whether red blood cell (RBC) transfusions actually improve palliative care patient’s symptoms and quality of life, researchers performed a systematic review of the literature and identified 13 studies (11 case studies, one prospective study, and one retrospective cohort study) that addressed this question. Eight of the 9 studies that examined whether symptoms improved after transfusions reported some benefit, but outcomes measured were variable and adverse events were often not recorded. Survival, post-transfusion hemoglobin levels, and adverse events were also reported with variable results and quality of data. The paucity of high quality data for RBC transfusions in palliative care patients, especially those patients with cancers that directly affect anemia, should be addressed in future studies.
- Chin-Yee N, Taylor J, Rourke K, et al. Red blood cell transfusion in adult palliative care: a systematic review. Transfusion 2018; 58: 233–241. doi:10.1111/trf.14413
- Raval J. and Cooling L. Red blood cell transfusion in palliative care: What are we doing and why are we doing it? Transfusion 2018; 58: 3-4.