Many patients today are seeking a safe alternative to the use of blood transfusions. Whether for religious reasons or personal preference, these patients want “bloodless surgery,” which are techniques that avoid transfusions of donor blood entirely.
At MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, we are able to meet the needs of these patients. From complex gastroenterology surgery to brain surgery, most surgical procedures today can be safely performed without a blood transfusion.
How will my surgeons prepare me for a bloodless procedure?
We take the necessary steps prior to your surgery to ensure your surgery is successful and safe. Preparations for a bloodless surgery differ from preparations before a regular surgery.
Blood loss during the surgery is expected, and our doctors implement strategies ahead of time to compensate for this loss of blood. Strategies include:
- Diet management—your doctor may advise you to eat foods that are high in iron to build up the iron supply in your blood. Your blood needs iron to carry oxygen throughout your body. You may also be advised to increase your vitamin C intake to help absorb the iron or to take other vitamin supplements like B-12 or folic acid.
- Hematopoietic agents—these include iron supplements and other medications that stimulate your body to produce more red blood cells. These medications can be used following surgery as well to rebuild your blood supply.
- Microsampling—as anyone who has been hospitalized knows, there are many routine blood tests performed during a hospital stay. With a bloodless surgery patient, the number of blood tests is kept to an absolute minimum and tests use “microsampling,” which means using extremely small amounts of blood to obtain the necessary laboratory results.
- Preoperative bone marrow stimulation—using medication (like erythropoietin) to stimulate your bone marrow to produce more red blood cells
- Delaying surgery—if your surgery is elective and not emergency, your doctor may decide to delay it if your hemoglobin levels are not sufficient. (Hemoglobin is the part of the red blood cell that allows oxygen to be carried throughout your body.) Delaying your surgery for a few weeks will give you time to make the necessary diet and medication changes to raise your hemoglobin level.
- Stopping certain medications—your doctor may tell you to stop taking certain medications that affect your blood clotting abilities or lower your blood count. These medications include aspirin, ibuprofen, and other non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), anticoagulants, vitamin E and certain herbal supplements containing garlic or ginkgo biloba. However, do not stop taking medications unless you have been advised to do so by your doctor.
- Stop smoking—smoking decreases the levels of oxygen that are delivered to your body. During a bloodless surgery, oxygen delivery is crucial. So speak to your doctor about quitting smoking.
Want to know more about bloodless surgery? Please call us at 202-444-1797 to make an appointment, or talk to our administrator about your bloodless surgery needs.