Cheap drug reduces need for post-surgery blood transfusions

Tranexamic acid costs about $10 per patient, compared to $1,200 for one unit of transfused blood, and did not increase adverse health events among patients.

By Stephen Feller

TORONTO, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- Doctors at a Canadian hospital significantly reduced the number of blood transfusions needed during hip and knee replacement surgeries by giving all eligible patients the drug tranexamic acid, or TXA, according to a new study.

Until 2013, there had been a shortage of the drug in Ontario, the Canadian province where the hospital is located. Once the shortage ended, doctors began trying the drug in specific situations they thought it could help.


"We wanted to optimize TXA's use in patients undergoing hip or knee replacements because these procedures often result in high blood loss and frequently require transfusions," said Dr. Greg Hare, an anesthesiologist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, in a press release. "The drug costs about $10 per patient, while the average cost of transfusing one unit of blood is $1,200."

TXA, a synthetic form of the amino acid lysine, already used in many heart, liver, vascular and large orthopedic surgeries to prevent blood loss.

In October 2013, after the drug was no longer in short supply, doctors at the hospital started using it with every hip and knee replacement patient eligible take it. In total, 422 patients received the drug before surgeries.


The transfusion rate among those surgeries decreased by 43 percent, from 8.8 percent to 5.2 percent. Among patients who received the drug, doctors saw no increase adverse health events, hospital stay or mortality when compared with the group that did not receive the drug.

The study is published in Canadian Journal of Anesthesia.

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