ONTraC: A 20-Year History of a Successfully Coordinated Provincewide Patient Blood Management Program: Lessons Learned and Goals Achieved

Anesth Analg, 2022 Sep 1;135(3):448-458. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000006065. Epub 2022 Aug 17. 

Katerina Pavenski, Alanna Howell, C David Mazer, Gregory M T Hare, John Freedman 


Our understanding of the risks associated with perioperative anemia and transfusion, in terms of increased morbidity and mortality, has evolved over the past 2 decades. By contrast, our understanding of the potential mechanisms of injury and optimal treatment strategies remains incomplete. As such, the important role of effective patient blood management (PBM) programs, which address both the effective treatment of anemia and minimizes the need for red blood cell (RBC) transfusion, is of central importance to optimizing patient care and improving patient outcomes. We report on important clinical outcomes of the Ontario Transfusion Coordinator (ONTraC Program), a network of 25 hospital sites, working in coordination over the past 20 years. Transfusion nurse coordinators were assigned to apply multimodal best practice in PBM (including recommended changes in surgical approach; diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of anemia; and adherence to more restrictive RBC transfusion thresholds). Data were collected on various clinical parameters. We further described lessons learned and difficulties encountered in this multisite PBM initiative. A significant reduction in RBC transfusions was observed for numerous indexed surgeries. For example, RBC transfusion rates for knee arthroplasty decreased from 25% in 2002 to 0.4% in 2020. For coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, transfusion rates decreased from 60% in 2002 to 27% in 2020. We also observed a decrease in RBC units utilized per transfused patient for knee (2.1 ± 0.5 [2002] vs 1.0 ± 0.6 [2020] units per patient) and CABG surgery (3.3 ± 0.6 [2002] vs 2.3 ± 1.9 [2020] units per patient). These reductions were associated with favorable clinical outcomes, including reduced length of hospital stay (P = .00003) and a reduced rate of perioperative infections (P < .001) for nontransfused versus transfused patients. These advances have been achieved with estimated savings in the tens of millions of dollars annually. Our experience and data support the hypothesis that instituting an integrated network of transfusion nurse coordinators can provide an effective provincewide PBM program, reduce RBC transfusions, improve some patient outcomes, and reduce health care costs, as an example of a “win-win-win” medical program.

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