Bloodless surgeries do not incorporate blood transfusions. When surgeons use specialized medical equipment, procedures, and meticulous technique, patients do not need their blood supplemented by outside blood sources.
For many surgical procedures, surgeons will utilize blood transfusions (transfer of donor blood to a patient through an IV) to restore blood that is being or was lost during the procedure. Patients can donate their own blood ahead of time to be used during the surgery, or a blood bank can also match and supply the blood instead. Other times only certain components of the blood may be used, depending on the patient’s needs. For example, red blood cells can help to increase the amount of oxygen carried to different tissues in the body, and platelets can help blood to clot better to control bleeding. Rather than receiving whole blood, the patient only receives the part they need.
Reasons for Bloodless Surgery
Health benefits include a faster recovery rate, a decreased risk of infection, and an eliminated risk of a transfusion reaction or receiving contaminated blood from the transfusion. Though these risks are small, they aren’t zero. Additionally, the greater time and care spent during the surgery minimize trauma to the tissues, making it less likely that patients will need blood during and after surgery.
Additionally, people of certain religions, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, consider the blood sacred and do not wish to have it removed or added to their system if their blood count drops as a result of the surgery. It is important for physicians to recognize and be respectful of their patient’s beliefs, even if they don’t match their own.
In this scenario, Dr. Kinchen plans the surgery with the patient and the religious leader who can serve as the patient’s advocate. The risk of blood loss and the options of prevention or minimization are discussed in detail. Other potentially viable options to increase blood volume are discussed. It is important that the patient feels comfortable with the plan prior to surgery. Dr. Kinchen respects every patient’s wishes and wants to make sure that her procedures meet the guidelines of each individual.
Some viable options may include:
- Staging the procedure (e.g., dividing the surgery into two days instead of one)
- Using the Cell Saver (which recycles the blood removed during the surgery and then gives it back through an IV)
- Using Epogen (a synthetic product that helps the body rejuvenate blood cells)
- Increasing iron intake pre- and post-operatively (this helps build up the blood count over several weeks)
- Using special tables that position the patient so that there is less pressure on the major blood vessels in the abdomen (this decreases blood loss)
- Using meticulous surgical technique, avoiding significant tissue trauma, using materials to help decrease blood loss during the surgery, and performing minimally invasive surgeries when possible (all of these things help to decrease blood loss during the procedure and during the post-operative period, as well)