Background: During the last few years, considerable focus has been given to the management of anemia and coagulopathies. This article provides current concepts of red blood cell (RBC) and plasma coagulation factor replacements.
Methods: The literature was reviewed for clinical studies relevant to RBC transfusion indications and outcomes as well as for the uses of coagulation factor replacement products for coagulopathies most likely encountered in patients with cancer.
Results: Most patients without complications can be treated with a hemoglobin level of 7 g/dL as an indication for RBC transfusion. However, the effects of disease among patients with cancer may cause fatigue, so transfusions at higher hemoglobin levels may be clinically helpful. Leukoreduced RBCs are recommended as standard therapy for all patients with cancer, most of whom do not develop coagulopathy. Transfusions to correct mild abnormalities are not indicated in this patient population. Data are inconclusive regarding the value of coagulation factor replacement for invasive procedures when the international normalized ratio is below 2.
Conclusions: Indications for RBC transfusion have become more conservative as data and experience have shown that patients can be safely and effectively maintained at lower hemoglobin levels. Coagulation factor replacement is unnecessary for most modest coagulopathies.