If you’re going in for surgery, you probably have so many things on your mind; “what if something goes wrong?” “what would my family do?” “what if the doctors mess up?” you probably don’t want to be thinking much about blood. But bloodless surgery is the avant-garde way many people are taking their surgery these days and bloodless surgery is something that you may wish to look into with your doctor.
What It Is: Bloodless surgery is basically surgery sans blood. If you’re going under the knife, the likelihood was always great that some blood will be spared; having backup donor blood on hand was standard protocol. Now, according to reporting from Penn Medicine (1) many people “…elect not to receive blood transfusions or blood products during surgery.” Bloodless surgery!
Types of Bloodless Surgery: Some of the procedures which currently may be performed in the bloodless route include: “Open heart surgery on both adults and children, vascular surgery, total hip and total knee replacements (arthroplasty), prostate removal (prostatectomy) and other types of surgery on the urinary tract, hysterectomies, aneurysm repairs, neurosurgery (including brain tumor removal), liver and other transplants, surgery to repair traumatic injuries (such as a lacerated spleen), cancer treatment surgery, neonatal and pediatric surgeries, and gynecological and urological surgeries.”
How It’s Administered: Bloodless medicine is more than just a ‘fill in the bubble’ type of procedure; there is typically a whole process before, during, and after the bloodless surgery that you will have to undergo. This may include dietary restrictions, exercise regimens, medication, or other techniques. You’ll need to first speak with your doctor to find out if there is a facility in the area which can accommodate your wishes. Then you’ll have to find out exactly what the doctors say you need to do before you undergo surgery.
Risks: Like any surgery there are risks to the bloodless surgery option; these need to be discussed before you go under. Generally, “…your health care team will strive to limit the possibility of heavy bleeding (hemorrhage). However, no surgical techniques or bloodless strategies can completely prevent the possibility of all bleeding. If an unforeseen circumstance results in major bleeding, and you have declined the use of blood donor products, you could experience serious blood loss that may need to be replaced to prevent organ injury or death. It is important that this unfortunate outcome be discussed in advance, so that you may guarantee that your wishes are followed.” While no one likes to imagine themselves the victim to complications such as these, the risks are heightened when you’ve made the disclaimer that no matter what, you don’t want to use donor blood. There are also allergic reactions to consider which may not show up until the doctors have already put you under.
Goals: The goals of bloodless surgery are noble and include many positives for the patient like “boost your red blood cell count prior to surgery, monitor and optimize oxygen delivery during surgery, avoid(ing) blood loss during surgery, collect(ion) and reuse (of) your own blood during surgery.” This can be music to the ears of the self-reliant individual. Bloodless medicine also relaxes the strain on the already dwindling supply of donated blood.