Your Questions about Bloodless Medicine Answered

While religious conviction can be the driving force behind the desire for bloodless medicine, other patients choose the option because they are uncomfortable or concerned about the use of blood products. While transfusions today are believed to be safer than ever, there are always risks. A bloodless medicine program like the one at Saint Peter’s University Hospital reduces exposure to a variety of risk factors and minimizes blood loss with improved medical and surgical techniques and interventions.

What are the benefits of a bloodless approach?
For patients who do not consider blood transfusion an option, bloodless medicine and surgery provide peace of mind along with access to the very best health care. However, there are additional health benefits for all patients who opt for a bloodless approach. Patients who do not receive blood transfusions have been shown to recover faster, have shorter hospital stays, and experience fewer infections. In addition, they avoid the risks of allergic reactions, contamination, or receiving the wrong blood type. Research has also shown that patients who undergo bloodless surgery have fewer heart attacks and strokes after surgery than those who receive transfusions.

What are the risks of blood transfusion?
While the U.S. blood supply is safer than ever, there is still a very small risk of transmission of hepatitis B and C, malaria, syphilis, parasites, HIV, and other rare diseases. Studies have shown that patients who receive blood transfusions are at increased risk for hospital-acquired infections compared to those who do not. Finally, the body treats a blood transfusion as a type of temporary transplantation, which results in the body’s immune system being suppressed.

How is bloodless surgery performed?
Nearly every surgical procedure involves some degree of blood loss. Certain techniques used before, during, and after surgery can help minimize blood loss and eliminate the need for blood transfusions.

Before surgery, medications and nutritional supplements may be used to help your body produce more hemoglobin, which is the protein that allows your blood to carry oxygen. By raising the amount of hemoglobin in your blood, your body can better handle blood loss during surgery.

During surgery, the latest tools and techniques can be used to minimize disruption of tissues, quickly stop bleeding, and recycle blood that is lost back into your body. Special anesthesia techniques can lower blood pressure, resulting in less blood loss.

After surgery, medications and various techniques can minimize bleeding and improve the amount of oxygen present in the blood. Micro-sampling allows blood testing to be performed on much smaller quantities of blood than are typically drawn, further conserving blood. Many blood tests can be performed with only one-tenth the amount of blood that is traditionally drawn.

Tana Menafro, RN-BC, CNML, is the nurse coordinator of the Bloodless Medicine and Surgery Program at Saint Peter’s University Hospital. She can be reached at tmenafro@saintpetersuh.com or by calling 732-339-7869.
 

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