Peritransplantation Red Blood Cell Transfusion Is Associated with Increased Risk of Graft-versus-Host Disease after Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation

Sakura Hosoba, Edmund K. Waller, Neeta Shenvi, Michael Graiser, Kirk A. Easley, Zaid Al-Kadhimi, Akira Andoh, Ana G. Antun, Sheliagh Barclay, Cassandra D. Josephson, Jean L. Koff, H. Jean Khoury, Amelia A. Langston, James C. Zimring, John D. Roback, Cynthia R. Giver

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4 Scopus citations


More than 90% of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT) recipients receive red blood cell (RBC) or platelet transfusions in the peritransplantation period. We tested the hypothesis that transfusions are associated with the development of severe (grade III-IV) acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD) or mortality after allo-HSCT in a retrospective study of 322 consecutive patients receiving an allogeneic bone marrow or granulocyte colony-stimulating factor-mobilized blood stem cell graft for a hematologic malignancy. Counting transfused RBC and platelet units between day −7 pretransplantation and day +27 post-transplantation, but excluding transfusions administered after a diagnosis of aGVHD, yielded medians of 5 RBC units and 2 platelet units transfused. Sixty-three patients (20%) developed a maximal grade III-IV aGVHD with onset up to day +150 post-transplantation (median aGVHD onset of 28 days). HLA mismatch (hazard ratio [HR], 2.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.2 to 4.7; P =.01), and transfusion of more than the median number of RBC units (HR, 2.1; 95% CI, 1.1 to 3.7; P =.02) were independently associated with greater risk of grade III-IV aGVHD in a multivariable analysis model. Disease risk strata (HR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.2 to 2.4 for high risk versus low risk; P =.005) and transfusion of more than the median number of RBC units (HR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.0 to 2.0; P =.054) were independently associated with inferior overall survival. These data support our hypothesis that peritransplantation RBC transfusions are associated with the risk of developing severe aGVHD and worse overall survival following allo-HSCT, and suggest that strategies to reduce routine RBC transfusion may favorably reduce the incidence and severity of GVHD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)973-982
Number of pages10
JournalBiology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2018



  • Allogeneic BMT
  • Allogeneic HSCT
  • Blood transfusion
  • GVHD
  • Graft-versus-host disease
  • RBC transfusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Transplantation

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