Blood transfusions that include albumin could be killing six out of 100 patients, new research has revealed. There is no evidence that albumin saves lives, either.
The researchers, from the Cochrane Injuries Group based at the Institute of Child Health in London, are calling for an urgent review of human albumin administration traditionally given to critically ill burns and shock victims.
They based their conclusions on an analysis of 30 randomised trials, involving 1,419 patients. They found that the risk of death increased when the patient was given albumin.
Their findings seem to be in step with those from other countries, many of which have already stopped administering albumin to the critically ill. Its use persists in parts of the British Commonwealth.
Albumin, a colloid which improves fluid retention, is a respected and widely used treatment.
There are alternatives to albumin, says Martin Off ringa at the Emma Children's Hospital in Amsterdam, but these come with their own problems (BMJ, 1998; 317: 235-40).
A newly discovered virus that causes hepatitis has been detected in blood transfusions. TTV (transfusion transmitted virus) viraemia, is frequently found in the blood donor population, new research has discovered.
The virus was discovered in 19 of 1000 regular blood donors when researchers from Edinburgh University analysed blood samples from the local transfusion centre. The virus has also been picked up in Japanese research (Lancet, 1998; 352: 191-5).