Bloodless surgery is quickly becoming a common procedure in major hospitals and healthcare centers around the world. Methods for blood management and conservation have become considerably more efficient and effective with the advent of new surgical tools and medications that boost red blood cell production. Twenty years ago, patients wishing to forgo a blood transfusion in favor of a bloodless surgery only had a handful of medical programs in the U.S. to choose from. Today, there are more than 200 bloodless medicine programs around the country.
One operation in particular that is being performed more frequently without blood transfusions is open heart surgery. As with any cardiothoracic surgery, open heart surgery is an extremely complex procedure that requires an experienced surgeon. In the past 40 years, many cardiothoracic surgeons have been adopting blood management and conservation techniques when performing these surgeries. A bloodless heart operation can actually lessen the complexity of the surgery and reduce the overall patient recovery times.
History of Bloodless Heart Surgery –
Although the basic principles of bloodless medicine have been around for nearly a century, these methods were only first applied to heart surgery in the past 40 to 50 years. In the early 1960s, a heart surgeon in Texas began treating Jehovah’s Witnesses in need of open heart surgery with bloodless methods and techniques. Jehovah’s Witnesses are unable to receive blood transfusions for religious reasons and needed an alternative procedure.
Other heart surgeons began to take notice. In 1973, a cardiothoracic surgery team in Los Angeles reported performing bloodless heart surgery on most of its patients, citing a less complicated procedure that reduced the risk for infection and increased patient recovery times. Soon, hospitals and healthcare centers all over the world were performing bloodless open heart surgeries, referred to as “bloodless hearts.”
Benefits of Bloodless Heart Surgery –
Bloodless heart surgeries have many advantages over traditional open heart procedures requiring blood transfusions. Many of these advantages are due to technological advances that have been made in the past few decades; blood management is easier and more efficient, minimally invasive surgical techniques are more precise, and patient monitoring equipment is more advanced.
Benefits of bloodless heart surgery include:
Reduced Risk of Infection – By applying advanced blood management and conservation techniques, blood transfusions are not necessary. Eliminating the need for a transfusion eliminates the risk for the patient becoming infected by diseases that can be transmitted through donated blood.
Less Complicated Procedure – By eliminating the need for one or even multiple blood transfusions, several additional risks and complications are also avoided, including negative immune responses, lung inflammation, and allergic reactions. Bloodless surgery can also be performed without the need for a cardiopulmonary bypass – commonly referred to as a heart-lung machine.
Faster Recovery Times – A less complicated procedure ultimately means a quicker patient recovery. Even without complications, a blood transfusion can require lengthy in-hospital recovery times (depending on the patient and the specific procedure).
Today, transfusion free cardiothoracic surgery is performed at some of the largest hospitals and healthcare systems in the U.S. Still, the procedure is by no means widespread. Only the best and highest rated hospitals are able to offer the procedure. If you are a cardiac patient who will need to schedule an open heart or other cardiothoracic surgery, contact your local hospital to see if bloodless surgery is available.