Anemia in the setting of traumatic brain injury: The arguments for and against liberal transfusion

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45 Scopus citations


Anemia is recognized as a possible cause of secondary injury following traumatic brain injury (TBI). Cogent arguments can be made for both liberal and restrictive blood transfusion practices in this setting. In this narrative review, we summarize available knowledge regarding the risks of anemia and transfusion in patients with TBI. Laboratory studies using animal models and healthy human subjects suggest that anemia below a hemoglobin (Hb) concentration of 7 g/dL results in impaired brain function and below 10 g/dL may be detrimental to recovery from TBI. Clinical studies that have evaluated the association of anemia with clinical outcomes have not consistently demonstrated harm, but they generally have important methodological weaknesses. Alternatively, studies that have analyzed transfusion as a predictor of worse outcome have consistently identified such an association, but these studies may involve residual confounding. What little information exists from randomized trials that have included patients with TBI and evaluated liberal versus restrictive transfusion strategies is inconclusive. Since anemia in the setting of TBI is relatively common and there is considerable variation in transfusion preferences, greater study of this topic - preferably with one or more rigorous, adequately powered, non-inferiority randomized trials - is desirable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-165
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011


  • anemia
  • blood transfusion
  • brain injuries
  • erythrocyte transfusion
  • traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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