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Blood Conservation Strategies in Cardiac Surgery: More is Better


Recent data show that up to 50% of heart procedures require blood transfusion, which can have adverse long- and short-term outcomes for the patient. This led to the updated 2011 Society of Thoracic Surgery (STS)/Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists (SCA) guidelines in an attempt to adopt more effective blood conservation techniques. We present our results after the implementation of a more aggressive strategy for intraoperative blood conservation in cardiac surgery.


Our cardiac surgery database was reviewed retrospectively, comparing outcomes from two different time periods, after the implementation of a more effective two-way blood conservation strategy beginning in March 2012: more aggressive intraoperative autologous donation (IAD) based on a newly constructed nomogram, and the use of a shorter length circuit of the cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) which allowed for lower fluid volume as a prime. The method of retrograde autologous priming (RAP) was the same for both time periods.


A total of 1126 patients (Group 1) were studied in a 12-month period (March 2012-February 2013) after the implementation of the new strategy, and compared with 3758 patients (Group 2) of the previous 36-month period (March 2009-February 2012). There was a significant reduction in the percent change of the intraoperative haematocrit between Groups 1 and 2 (14 vs 28%, P = 0.01), with an increase in the mean IAD volume (655 vs 390 ml, P = 0.02) and a reduction in the CPB priming volume (1000 vs 1600 ml, P = 0.03). Group 1 required significantly less blood transfusions in the perioperative period (29 vs 49%, P = 0.02) and had significantly reduced postoperative rates of respiratory failure (3 vs 7%, P = 0.03), pneumonia (1 vs 3.1%, P = 0.01), chest tube output (350 vs 730 ml, P = 0.01), reoperation for bleeding (1.2 vs 2.5%, P = 0.04) and length of stay (6.1 vs 8.2 days, P = 0.05).


Blood conservation is safe and effective in reducing transfusions in cardiac surgeryminimizing perioperative morbidity and mortality. Aggressive IAD and low CPB prime, along with effective RAP, is the three-way blood conservation strategy that leads to improved outcomes in cardiac surgery.

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