purpose: The acquired immunodeficiency syndrome epidemic has greatly increased concern about the risk of blood transfusion. Many transfusions are now autologous, and when these are not available, both physicians and patients are more likely to question the advisability of transfusion. We evaluate the risk of preoperative blood transfusion and the contribution of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection to that risk. methods: We used decision analysis to characterize the risk associated with HIV infection in days of life lost. The contributions to risk of acute transfusion reaction, hepatitis B, and nonA, non-B hepatitis are also estimated. Sensitivity analyses show the implications for transfusion risk of recent information about HIV infection in the blood supply and a new test for hepatitis C. results: The analysis shows that the contribution of HIV infection to the risk of death from transfusion, expressed in days of life expectancy lost, has become extremely small over the last several years. Currently, HIV infection accounts for less than 1% of the risk of death, while nonA, non-B hepatitis accounts for 97% to 98%. Further reductions in the risk of HIV infection, even to zero, will make relatively little difference in the safety of transfusion. The analysis also shows that the remaining risk from transfusion should decrease sharply, by more than two thirds, with the adoption of the test for hepatitis C. conclusions: Efforts to improve the safety of blood should focus on reducing the risk of non-A, non-B hepatitis. The remaining risk of HIV infection is very small.
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