Transfusion increases the risk for vasoplegia after cardiac operations

Andrej Alfirevic, Meng Xu, Douglas Johnston, Priscilla Figueroa, Colleen G. Koch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background: Perioperative vasoplegia is associated with increased morbidity. Red blood cell (RBC) transfusion increases plasma concentrations of inflammatory mediators, possibly contributing to the development of vasoplegia. We investigated the prevalence of mild and profound postoperative vasoplegia, identified factors associated with its development, and examined the role of RBC and component transfusion on the occurrence of postoperative vasoplegia. Methods: Between January 1, 2000, and January 1, 2007, 25,960 patients underwent on-bypass cardiac surgical procedures. The incidence of vasoplegia was defined as (1) mild vasoplegia requiring norepinephrine infusion for blood pressure support on the day of operation and postoperative day 1, and (2) profound vasoplegia requiring vasopressin, with or without concomitant norepinephrine infusion, on the day of operation and postoperative day 1. Separate logistic regression models were used to model risk factors for development of mild and profound vasoplegia. Results: RBC transfusion increased risk-adjusted odd ratios (ORs) of developing mild vasoplegia (1.07 [95% confidence limits (CL), 1.05, 1.10]; p < 0.001) and profound vasoplegia (1.38 [1.31, 1.46] p < 0.001). The risk-adjusted ORs (95% CL) for mild vasoplegia and profound vasoplegia were similarly increased by fresh-frozen plasma (OR, 1.24 [1.10, 1.41], p < 0.001; and OR, 1.20 [1.13, 1.29], p < 0.001) and platelet transfusion (OR, 1.39 [1.25, 1.54], p < 0.001; and OR, 1.22 [1.14, 1.31], p < 0.001), respectively. Conclusions: Red blood cells, fresh-frozen plasma, and platelet transfusion increased the prevalence of vasoplegia. RBC transfusion exhibited a dose-dependent response for developing vasoplegia with each RBC unit transfused. Further investigation is necessary to determine whether prophylactic use of vasopressor support in the setting of transfusion can ameliorate risk and effect outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)812-819
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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