Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists

The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) ), including the Faculty of Pain Medicine, is one of Australasia's largest specialist medical colleges and is responsible for the training, examination and specialist accreditation of anaesthetists and pain medicine specialists and for the standards of clinical practice.

Avoid administering packed red blood cells (blood transfusion) to a young healthy patient with a haemoglobin of ≥70g/L who does not have on-going blood loss, unless the patient is symptomatic or haemodynamically unstable.

Date reviewed: 17 March 2017

The optimal haemoglobin criterion for transfusion remains controversial and under investigation, varying between 60 and 100 g/L. Compared with higher haemoglobin thresholds, a lower haemoglobin threshold is associated with fewer red blood cell units transfused, without adverse associations with mortality, cardiac morbidity, functional recovery or length of hospital stay in young otherwise healthy patients. Hospital mortality is lower in younger patients randomised to a lower haemoglobin threshold for transfusion versus those randomised to a higher haemoglobin threshold.

The decision to transfuse should be based on a combination of both haemoglobin level and assessment of the patient’s clinical status, in particular, haemodynamic indicators and underlying cardiovascular pathology. Currently there is no evidence of benefit and some evidence of harm in the transfusion of packed red blood cells to young healthy haemodynamically stable patients without symptoms.

Supporting evidence
  • Patient Blood Management Guidelines: Module 2 – Perioperative. National Blood Authority 2012.
  • Carson JL, Patel MS. Is there an optimal perioperative hemoglobin level? In Fleisher L, Evidence-based practice of anesthesiology. 3rd ed, 155–163. Philadelphia (PA): Elsevier Saunders.
  • Goodnough LT, Levy JH, Murphy MF. Concepts of blood transfusion in adults. Lancet 2013;381:1845–54.
  • Carson JL, Carless PA, Hebert PC. Transfusion threshold and other strategies for guiding allogeneic red blood cell transfusion (Review). Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012;4:CD002042.
How this list was made How this list was made

ANZCA’s Safety and Quality Committee established a working group that developed a preliminary list of 10 anaesthetic-related practices that, based on clinical evidence, may have possible limited benefit, no benefit or may potentially cause harm to patients. Using an on-line survey tool, all ANZCA Fellows and trainees were invited to rank these recommendations and provide relevant comments. This engagement facilitated consensus and informed Fellows and trainees about ANZCA’s involvement with the Choosing Wisely campaign.

ANZCA’s final list of 5 Choosing Wisely recommendations deliberately supports the clinician’s judgements and emphasises the importance of considering patient and surgical factors in decision making; in particular, as regards the selection of necessary preoperative testing and appropriate facilities for all patients and the expected outcomes and goals of care for the medically frail.

Download ANZCA Recommendations