During any form of surgery there is a certain inherent amount of blood loss.  Often the amount of blood lost may be significant enough to justify a blood transfusion.  Today, there is the option of limiting the amount of blood transfused from one person to another through the use of autologous cell salvaging.

Basically, autologous cell salvaging is the process of collecting blood lost during surgery into a cell saver machine.  If there is enough blood collected, the cell saver machine can be used to wash the blood, removing the white blood cells and platelets; while saving the red blood cells.  The patient’s own red blood cells can then be returned to help maintain the patient’s hemoglobin and hematocrit levels.

Advantages to Autologous Cell Salvaging:

The biggest advantage of autologous cell salvaging is the safe return of lost red blood cells back to the patient.  Since the patient’s own blood is being washed, there is no risk of cross-contamination as would be present from the patient receiving a transfusion from blood donated by another person (an allogeneic blood transfusion).  As careful as blood banking processes are today, there is still a risk of infection or transfusion reaction any time one person receives a blood product from another person.  Some examples of diseases which can be transmitted via an allogeneic blood transfusion are CMV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV.

An additional consideration is cost.  Blood collected for future use from the blood bank is expensive.  Not only is there the initial cost of collecting the blood, but there are other costs associated with cross-typing, screening for pathological agents, storage, and record keeping to name a few of the processes involved with safe blood banking practices.  The cost of the use of a cell saver machine, the disposables and the technician during surgery is often less than the total cost of one transfused unit of allogeneic blood product.

There is also the aspect of religious preferences.  Some individuals, for example practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses, choose not to receive blood products which have been separated from their body – much less allogeneic blood products.  The use of a cell salvaging machine can be modified to make a complete circuit from the surgical field through the machine and back to the patient to satisfy the patient’s religious needs.

Finally, there is a social connection to the use of autologous cell salvaging.  The availability of allogeneic blood products is not guaranteed.  There are often shortages of the supply of blood products of specific blood types.  The overall use of autologous cell salvaging within a geographic region reduces the strain on the local blood supply; thus helping to keep more blood products available for those in serious need of allogeneic blood transfusions.

We hope you find this information useful so you may make an informed decision regarding the use of autologous cell salvaging during your surgical procedure.  Your health and safety are important to us; as is the comfort your feel in making educated decisions regarding your surgical options.  Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.


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