Advances in our understanding of the risks associated with allogeneic blood transfusions (ABTs) and the growing number of patients who wish to avoid ABTs have led to the emergence of new treatment paradigms for “bloodless” medicine and surgery.
Here, we review prior studies and summarize current strategies for bloodless care used at our institution. We advocate three basic principles: 1) diagnosing and aggressively treating anemia, 2) minimizing blood loss from laboratory testing and invasive procedures, and 3) identifying and managing bleeding diatheses. Anemia is treated with erythropoiesis-stimulating agents as well as iron, folate, and B12 when indicated. Low-volume phlebotomy tubes are used for laboratory testing. Autologous blood salvage is used for childbirth and surgical patients who have the potential for substantial bleeding.
Although there have been few retrospective studies and no prospective studies to guide management, prior studies suggest that outcomes for surgical patients managed without ABTs are comparable to those of historic controls.
Given the emerging evidence that patients who avoid ABTs do as well if not better than patients who accept ABTs, further efforts are needed to determine whether all patients could benefit from bloodless strategies. Bloodless approaches in selected patients could reduce risks, improve outcomes, and decrease costs for all patients.
Learn how you can implement a bloodless program in your institution.
Learn more about bloodless medicine and surgery.