Use of propensity score methods to address adverse events associated with the storage time of blood in an obstetric population: A comparison of methods

Jillian A. Patterson, Elizabeth A. Stuart, Jane B. Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: A recent topic of interest in the blood transfusion literature is the existence of adverse effects of transfusing red cells towards the end of their storage life. This interest has been sparked by conflicting results in observational studies, however a number of methodological difficulties with these studies have been noted. One potential strategy to address these difficulties is the use of propensity scores, of which there are a number of possible methods. This study aims to compare the traditional methods for binary exposures with more recently developed generalised propensity score methods. Methods: Data were obtained from probabilistically linked hospital, births and blood bank databases for all women giving birth from 23 weeks gestation in New South Wales, Australia, between July 2006 and December 2010 with complete information on the birth admission and blood issued. Analysis was restricted to women who received 1-4 units of red cells. Three different propensity score methods (for binary, ordinal and continuous exposures) were compared, using each of four different approaches to estimating the effect (matching, stratifying, weighting and adjusting by the propensity score). Each method was used to determine the effect of blood storage time on rates of severe morbidity and readmission or transfer. Results: Data were available for 2990 deliveries to women receiving 1-4 units of red cells. The rate of severe maternal morbidity was 3.7 %, and of readmission or transfer was 14.4 %. There was no association between blood storage time and rates of severe morbidity or readmission irrespective of the approach used. There was no single optimal propensity score method; the approaches differed in their ease of implementation and interpretation. Conclusions: Within an obstetric population, there was no evidence of an increase in adverse events following transfusion of older blood. Propensity score methods provide a useful tool for addressing the question of adverse events with increasing storage time of blood, as these methods avoid many of the pitfalls of previous studies. In particular, generalised propensity scores can be used in situations where the exposure is not binary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number367
JournalBMC Research Notes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 26 2016


  • Blood transfusion
  • Observational study
  • Obstetrics
  • Propensity score methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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