Here are five key articles on the techniques, safety, and efficacy of bloodless medicine and surgery, and the risks of blood transfusion. Each training module in the Bloodless Classroom also has a subject-specific bibliography. The official website of the Hospital Information Services of Jehovah’s Witnesses offers an extensive library of medical articles organized by specialty. The Hospital Information Services department is available to provide references for specific conditions and clinical situations and may be contacted by phone or email at any time.
This document provides guidance on the surgical management of Jehovah’s Witnesses and other patients who withhold consent to blood transfusion. It takes into account and expands on the principles set out in Good Surgical Practice (RCS, 2014), Consent: Supported Decision-Making – A Guide to Good Practice (RCS, 2016) as well as guidance from the GMC and NICE, to enable surgeons and their teams to provide high-quality care to Jehovah’s Witness and other patients who refuse blood transfusion while respecting their right to make autonomous decisions about treatment. It offers information on the current requirements for patient communication and supported decision-making and practical advice to support surgeons in complying with their legal, ethical and regulatory obligations. Although this guide has been developed primarily for surgeons, most of its recommendations are applicable to other medical specialties.
A better understanding of risks associated with allogeneic blood transfusions (ABTs), along with a growing population of patients who do not accept transfusions, have led to the emergence of new treatment paradigms with "bloodless medicine." In this chapter, we review prior studies describing management and outcomes in patients who refuse transfusion (referred to as "bloodless patients" herein) and summarize the approaches used at our institution. Bloodless management for surgical patients includes treatment of preoperative anemia, use of autologous blood salvage, and minimizing blood loss with procedures. Other adjuncts for both medical and surgical patients include minimizing blood loss from laboratory testing using pediatric phlebotomy tubes and conservative testing. Anemia can be treated with erythropoiesis-stimulating agents, as well as iron, folate, and B12 when indicated. Although there are limited retrospective studies and no prospective studies to guide management, prior reports suggest that outcomes for surgical patients managed without ABTs are comparable to historic controls. A recent risk-adjusted, propensity-matched, case-control study of outcomes of all hospitalized patients who refused ABT at a large academic health center showed that bloodless management was not an independent predictor of adverse outcomes. Surprisingly, there was a lower overall mortality in the bloodless group and discharge hemoglobin levels were similar for both bloodless and control groups.
Further research is now needed to optimize therapy and identify novel interventions to manage bloodless patients. Lessons learned from bloodless patients are likely to benefit all patients given recent evidence suggesting that patients who avoid ABTs do as well, if not better, than those who accept transfusions.
Patient blood management (PBM) programs are associated with improved patient outcomes, reduced transfusions and costs. In 2008, the Western Australia Department of Health initiated a comprehensive health-system-wide PBM program. This study assesses program outcomes.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS
This was a retrospective study of 605,046 patients admitted to four major adult tertiary-care hospitals between July 2008 and June 2014. Outcome measures were red bloodcell (RBC), fresh-frozen plasma (FFP), and platelet units transfused; single-unit RBC transfusions; pretransfusion hemoglobin levels; elective surgery patients anemic at admission; product and activity-based costs of transfusion; in-hospital mortality; length of stay; 28-day all-cause emergency readmissions; and hospital-acquired complications.
Comparing final year with baseline, units of RBCs, FFP, and platelets transfused per admission decreased 41% (p < 0.001), representing a saving of AU$18,507,092 (US$18,078,258) and between AU$80 million and AU$100 million (US$78 million and US$97 million) estimated activity-based savings. Mean pretransfusion hemoglobin levels decreased 7.9 g/dL to 7.3 g/dL (p < 0.001), and anemic elective surgery admissions decreased 20.8% to 14.4% (p = 0.001). Single-unit RBC transfusions increased from 33.3% to 63.7% (p < 0.001). There were risk-adjusted reductions in hospital mortality (odds ratio [OR], 0.72; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.67-0.77; p < 0.001), length of stay (incidence rate ratio, 0.85; 95% CI, 0.84-0.87; p < 0.001), hospital-acquired infections (OR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.73-0.86; p < 0.001), and acute myocardial infarction-stroke (OR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.58-0.82; p < 0.001). All-cause emergency readmissions increased (OR, 1.06; 95% CI, 1.02-1.10; p = 0.001).
Implementation of a unique, jurisdiction-wide PBM program was associated with improved patient outcomes, reduced blood product utilization, and product-related cost savings.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW
Clinical research has identified blood transfusion as an independent risk factor for immediate and long-term adverse outcomes, including an increased risk of death, myocardial infarction, stroke, renal failure, infection and malignancy. New findings have called into question the traditional assumptions clinicians utilize in evaluating the risks and benefits of blood transfusion. Appreciation of newly recognized risks is important for conserving scarce resources and optimizing patient outcomes.
Recent clinical outcomes research has examined the impact of blood transfusion on critically ill patients, trauma patients, patients undergoing cardiac surgery, patients experiencing acute coronary syndromes, oncology patients and others. These studies provide additional evidence of adverse outcomes associated with blood transfusion in a wide variety of clinical contexts.
The benefits of blood transfusion have never been conclusively demonstrated, but evidence of transfusion-related harm continues to accumulate. Given the transfusion triggers that currently predominate in clinical practice it appears that clinical outcomes could improve significantly with more widespread adoption of restrictive transfusion strategies.
Although clinical outcomes have been reported for patients who do not accept allogeneic blood transfusion (ABT), many previous studies lack a control group, fail to use risk adjustment, and focus exclusively on cardiac surgery.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS
We report a risk-adjusted, propensity score-matched, retrospective case-control study of clinical outcomes for inpatients who did not accept ABT (bloodless, n = 294) and those who did accept ABT (control, n = 1157). Multidisciplinary specialized care was rendered to the bloodless patients to conserve blood and optimize clinical outcomes. Differences in hemoglobin (Hb), mortality, five morbid outcomes, and hospital charges and costs were compared. Subgroups of medical and surgical patients were analyzed, and independent predictors of outcome were determined by multivariate analysis.
Overall, mortality was lower in the bloodless group (0.7%) than in the control group (2.7%; p = 0.046), primarily attributed to the surgical subgroup. After risk adjustment,bloodless care was not an independent predictor of the composite adverse outcome (death or any morbid event; p = 0.91; odds ratio, 1.02; 95% confidence interval, 0.68-1.53). Discharge Hb concentrations were similar in the bloodless (10.8 ± 2.7 g/dL) and control (10.9 ± 2.3 g/dL) groups (p = 0.42). Total and direct hospital costs were 12% (p = 0.02) and 18% (p = 0.02) less, respectively, in the bloodless patients, a difference attributed to the surgical subgroup.
Using appropriate blood conservation measures for patients who do not accept ABT results in similar or better outcomes and is associated with equivalent or lower costs. This specialized care may be beneficial even for those patients who accept ABT.