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Platelet and Red Blood Cell Transfusions and Risk of Acute Graft-versus-Host Disease after Myeloablative Allogeneic Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation

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Transfusion therapy is a critical part of supportive care early after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT). Platelet and RBC transfusions elicit immunomodulatory effects in the recipient, but if this impacts the risk of acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD) has only been scarcely investigated. We investigated if platelet and RBC transfusions were associated with the development of aGVHD following myeloablative allo-HCT in a cohort of 664 patients who underwent transplantation between 2000 and 2019. Data were further analyzed for the impact of blood donor age and sex and blood product storage time. Exploratory analyses were conducted to assess correlations between transfusion burden and plasma biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial activation and damage. Between day 0 and day +13, each patient received a median of 7 (IQR, 5 to 10) platelet transfusions and 3 (IQR, 2 to 6) RBC transfusions (Spearman's ρ = 0.49). The cumulative sums of platelet and RBC transfusions, respectively, received from day 0 to day +13 were associated with subsequent grade II-IV aGVHD in multivariable landmark Cox models (platelets: adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 1.27; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.06 to 1.51; RBCs: adjusted HR, 1.41; 95% CI, 1.09 to 1.82; both per 5 units; 184 events). For both platelet and RBC transfusions, we did not find support for a difference in the risk of aGVHD according to age or sex of the blood donor. Transfusion of RBCs with a storage time longer than the median of 8 days was inversely associated with aGVHD (HR per 5 units, 0.54; 95% CI, 0.30 to 0.96); however, when using an RBC storage time of ≥14 days as a cutoff, there was no longer evidence for an association with aGVHD (HR, 1.03 per 5 units; 95% CI, 0.53 to 2.00). For platelets, there was no clear association between storage time and the risk of aGVHD. The transfusion burdens of platelets and RBCs were positively correlated with plasma levels of TNF-α, IL-6, and soluble thrombomodulin at day +14. In conclusion, platelet and RBC transfusions in the first 2 weeks after myeloablative allo-HCT were associated with subsequent development of grade II-IV aGVHD. We did not find evidence of an impact of blood donor age or sex or blood product storage time on the risk of aGVHD. Our findings support restrictive transfusion strategies in allo-HCT recipients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTransplantation and cellular therapy
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)866.e1-866.e9
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021 The American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • Blood Platelets, Erythrocyte Transfusion/adverse effects, Graft vs Host Disease, Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation/adverse effects, Humans, Retrospective Studies

ID: 69976031