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Monday, June 19, 2023

Beyond Transfusions: Exploring the World of Bloodless Medicine

Posted By: Advancing Care

When it comes to cutting-edge surgical procedures, bloodless medicine is steadily rising to the top of the list. This innovative approach focuses on patient management and personal wishes by minimizing or eliminating the need for blood transfusions during medical interventions. By employing advanced techniques and technologies, bloodless medicine has proven to be an effective complement to traditional surgery, not only for patients who refuse blood transfusions due to personal, religious or medical reasons, but also for the general population.

“Bloodless medicine programs are currently available in about four percent of hospitals across the country, and WMCHealth’s Good Samaritan Hospital is proud to be one of them,” says Richard Evans, MD, Director of the Bloodless Medicine Surgery Program at Good Samaritan Hospital. “Evidence has demonstrated that when medical professionals can safely refrain from transfusing blood components, patients receive several positive health benefits.”

Richard Evans, MD
Richard Evans, MD

Bloodless Medicine 101: The Basics and Benefits

In the United States alone, an estimated 21 million blood transfusions are performed annually, contributing to rising healthcare costs, potential risks and increased strain on the nation’s already fragile blood supply. However, with the implementation of bloodless programs, hospitals have reported remarkable results, including lower postoperative complication rates, fewer wound infections and shorter hospital stays.

Not surprisingly, studies have indicated a considerable decrease in overall blood transfusion rates—some healthcare organizations have reported a 30 percent reduction in blood transfusion within the first two years of implementing a bloodless program. There was a mindset shift amongst providers in these hospitals that resulted in more blood conservation and a higher threshold for transfusions.

Bloodless techniques encourage surgeons to focus on surgical approaches that minimize bleeding to enhance overall outcomes. “Blood transfusions carry inherent risks to the patient, including allergic reactions, transfusion-induced infections and immunological complications,” explains Dr. Evans. “Bloodless medicine significantly reduces many of these risks, improving patient safety.”

Patients who undergo procedures without blood transfusions often experience quicker recoveries compared to those who do receive blood transfusions. Bloodless surgery techniques often result in less physiological stress on the body, leading to faster healing and an earlier return to normal activities.

In terms of who is eligible, Dr. Evans notes that bloodless techniques can be used in nearly any surgical procedure. Patients can enroll in the bloodless program if they refuse to accept blood transfusions, even in a life-saving situation.

Understanding the Risks

While bloodless medicine and surgery offer numerous advantages, it's important to note that there are potential risks involved.

“Choosing to forgo a potentially life-saving blood transfusion is not a decision patients should take lightly,” advises Dr. Evans. “When a patient enrolls in the bloodless program, we educate them, their families and their extended care team, because in the end, we are all in this together and everyone involved needs to be aware of both the benefits and risks associated with these approaches.”

Risks of bloodless surgery include life-threatening anemia and related complications. Providers often administer medications that stimulate bone marrow and increase a patient’s blood count to combat anemia before and after surgery. Surgeons may also use coagulant agents on small blood vessels, acting like glue to prevent blood loss. Modern stapling devices are often used in robotic surgeries to reduce bleeding and prevent complications. In addition, a hyperbaric chamber can be used in bloodless surgery to provide an increase in oxygen to organs.

If you are curious about WMCHealth’s bloodless medicine program at Good Samaritan Hospital, learn more here.