March 13, 2011

Bloodless Medicine

The term "bloodless medicine" refers to a variety of techniques that allow a patient to be treated without blood transfusions. This means that the patient does not receive any major blood products that have been stored or provided by donors. 

You may wish to request bloodless medicine techniques if you are scheduled to undergo a surgical procedure. In addition, some of these techniques can be applied to patients who have suffered traumatic injuries.
Bloodless techniques may be performed before, during, and after your surgery, and may include a combination of diet, medication, surgical techniques, and other strategies. Some of the common goals are to:
  • Boost your red blood cell count prior to surgery
  • Monitor and optimize oxygen delivery during surgery
  • Avoid blood loss during surgery
  • Collect and reuse your own blood during surgery

Bloodless medicine is growing
The practice of bloodless medicine is growing by leaps and bounds. In early 1990, you would have been able to choose from only a small number of medical centers providing bloodless health care. By 1996, you could have chosen from about 76 centers.

Today, more than 100 American medical centers are known for providing bloodless care, and even more centers are exploring the technologies and practices that will make such care a regular option for interested patients. Overall, health care practitioners are making efforts to avoid the use of blood products whenever possible, even in centers that do not specifically focus on bloodless medicine. 

The components of blood
To better understand the issues surrounding bloodless medicine, it's important to have a basic understanding of blood. In a given sample of your blood, more than half of the sample is made up of a watery substance called plasma, which contains proteins, immune cells, clotting factors, and various salts.
About half of the sample is made up of red blood cells, which contain oxygen-carrying hemoglobin. Less than 1% of the sample is made up of white blood cells (infection-fighting cells) and platelets (sticky little cell fragments that are involved in helping the blood clot).

Adapted from:  Penn Medicine