Putting Patients First - Transfusion Information
Has a doctor just told you (or a friend or family member) that a blood transfusion may be required as part of treatment? If so, you probably have questions to be answered before making an informed decision. Below are some questions and answers that may help.
Ask your Surgeon, Anesthesiologist or Perfusionist for details & use of the Hemobag® during open heart surgery
The Hemobag® is a blood salvage device that saves all of your own blood that remains in the heart-lung machine after heart surgery; other methods typically only save some parts of your blood.
The Hemobag® can be used for many procedures, including:
- Cardiopulmonary bypass
- ECMO support techniques
- Ventricular assist device procedures
- Liver transplantation/bypass
- Isolated limb perfusions
- Heparinized cardiotomy reservoirs
- Jehovah’s Witness patients
Bloodless Surgery and Patient Safety Issues
- PBS Video: NEED TO KNOW - Blood Test: What you don't know about blood
- Fox J, Brown A, Vigil R. Bloodless surgery and patient safety issues. Perioperative Nursing Clinics 2008 Dec; 3(4):345-54.
Many types of blood components are made from human blood, for example:
- Red Blood Cells (RBC) - Blood cells that contain hemoglobin and give blood its red color. RBC deliver oxygen to tissues and remove carbon dioxide.
- Platelets - Cells that help prevent bleeding by forming a clot at the site of an injury.
- Plasma - The straw colored clear liquid portion of blood that is ~90% water and in which red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are suspended. Plasma contains clotting factors that help prevent bleeding and albumin that helps maintain blood pressure.
This video demonstrates the necessary blood components.
Blood transfusions do continue to have risks. Some are rare and some are common. Some are life-threatening triggering shock, cardiac arrest or uncontrolled bleeding, and others are mild, involving symptoms such as a rash or fever. For blood transfusion risks, see What is the bloody truth about blood transfusion? (Strategic Blood Management)
Transfusion-transmitted diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis C are rare today, whereas others such as life-threatening transfusion reactions caused by human error continue to occur more frequently than they should.
Today the medical community has moved away from transfusing allogeneic blood (blood donated by another person) whenever possible and now takes a blood management and conservation approach. Blood management programs are designed to reduce the need for patients to receive blood donated by another person and may include:
- Autologous infusion of one's own blood via:
- Autologous blood donation: patient donation of their own blood before surgery to be stored until the date of surgery and then infused back into them should they require blood. If not used for the patient, the blood is discarded.
- Autologous blood salvage: re-infusing a patient's own blood using a blood salvage device to collect, filter and return blood to the patient during or shortly after surgery.
- Medication to boost patient’s blood levels before surgery or to reduce blood loss during surgery.
- When blood is absolutely required, the safest blood is almost always the patient's own autologous blood.
If your physician tells you that you may need a blood transfusion as part of your treatment:
- Ask about alternatives to receiving blood donated by another person;
- Ask for a full explanation of what the risks and benefits of blood transfusion are;
- Ask if receiving your own autologous blood (donated or salvaged) is possible for you;
- Ask about the Hemobag®, proven & safe state-of-the-art blood salvage that has been shown to improve patient outcomes compared to other devices.