• Objective: To evaluate changes in the institution's red blood cell (RBC) transfusion practice during the past 15 years and the influence of these changes on neurologic or cardiac morbidity after carotid endarterectomy. • Patients and Methods: Based on a retrospective analysis of the Mayo Clinic database, 1114 patients who underwent carotid endarterectomy were stratified into 1 of 2 groups: (1) 1980 to 1985 (ie, pre-human immunodeficiency virus screening, early-practice group [n=552]) and (2) 1990 to 1995 (ie, recent-practice group [n=562]). Data were compared between time periods using the Χ2 test for categorical variables and the rank sum test for continuous variables. Logistic regression was used to assess the association between perioperative transfusion practice and the occurrence of stroke or myocardial infarction. Two-tailed P values ≤05 were considered statistically significant. • Results: Patients in the recent-practice group were significantly older (mean ± SD age, 69.6±8.7 years) vs 65.9±8.3 years in the early-practice group (P<.001). The proportion of patients receiving perioperative RBC transfusion decreased dramatically from 72.9% in 1980-1985 to 8.7% in 1990-1995 (P<.001). Additionally, the mean ± SD number of RBC units transfused decreased from 1.10±1.30 U in 1980-1985 to 0.27±1.22 U in 1990-1995 (P<.001). Mean ± SD discharge hemoglobin concentration decreased from 13.7±1.4 g/dL in 1980-1985 to 11.8±1.5 g/dL in 1990-1995 (P<.001). Rates of perioperative stroke and myocardial infarction did not differ between the 2 time periods (early-practice group vs recent-practice group: stroke, 5.1% vs 3.6% [P=.22]; myocardial infarction, 1.5% vs 2.3% [P=.29]). • Conclusions: Our results suggest that elderly patients undergoing carotid endarterectomy (ie, individuals known to be at high risk for cerebral and cardiac ischemia) can tolerate modest perioperative anemia despite a considerable change in the institution's transfusion practice (lower "transfusion trigger," the hemoglobin concentration or hematocrit value below which RBC transfusion is indicated).
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