Self-donating blood for heart surgery cuts patients’ hospital stays, lowers transfusion rate

Patients undergoing heart surgery might see better outcomes and shorter hospital stays if they opt for intraoperative autologous blood donation, according to research out of New York.

Intraoperative autologous blood donation, or the process of a patient having blood drawn before their surgery so physicians can then “recycle” that blood back into their bodies as needed during the procedure, reduced blood transfusions in a study of nearly 700 heart surgery patients at New York-Presbyterian Queens Hospital, according to HealthDay. The hospital adopted a “more aggressive” policy about intraoperative donations in 2013 in the hopes that more patients would decide to self-donate.

The study comprised 420 patients who’d had surgery after the policy switch and 268 who had surgery before it. Only a fraction of patients decided to self-donate before the policy switch, which led to a 70 percent transfusion rate in that group. Blood transfusions were reduced in the post-policy change cohort, which saw a 40 percent transfusion rate.

The researchers behind the project said patients who self-donated also required less blood in the case of a transfusion, and their hospital stays were shorter. According to HealthDay, returning patients’ blood to their bodies might help prevent bleeding because it contains their natural clotting factors and platelets.

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