Here are some clear, easy-to-understand definitions of terms used to describe bloodless medicine and surgery. Our team can explain more about any of these terms during your appointment.
Albumin is a protein in the blood that helps maintain blood volume. Albumin can be separated out of whole blood and transfused by itself. Some patients who refuse whole blood accept transfusions of albumin and others do not.
Argon beam coagulator (ABC)
An argon beam coagulator (ABC) is an instrument used during surgery to help stop blood loss. The ABC sprays argon gas on bleeding tissues, helping the blood to clot quickly.
Certain biological products can be applied directly to bleeding tissues to stop the loss of blood. These products include pads made of cellulose and collagen, and glues made of fibrinogen and thrombin. The acceptability of such products is based on the personal beliefs of the patient.
When blood is lost during surgery, that blood (if not contaminated) can be collected and put back into the patient. The blood is not stored, but is immediately “washed” with a salt-based solution and then reintroduced into the blood stream through an intravenous (IV) line. (See Intraoperative Cell Salvage Machine.)
Intraoperative Cell Salvage Machine
An intraoperative cell salvage machine is a device that is used during surgery to collect blood that is lost from the patient, “wash” it, and immediately reinfuse it back into the patient. (See blood salvage.) This helps maintain the proper volume of blood during surgery without the need for transfusions.
Eectrocautery (or electrocauterization) is a procedure that heats bleeding vessels using a safe electric current, quickly sealing them and stopping the bleeding.
The hormone erythropoietin (EPO) is made by the kidneys and signals the body to make more blood cells. When there is an urgent need for more blood (as when you lose blood rapidly during surgery or trauma), synthetic EPO can help increase blood production.
While a regular scalpel is designed to cut tissues during surgery, a harmonic scalpel both cuts and seals the bleeding vessels at the same time. Using ultrasound technology, the harmonic scalpel vibrates gently and precisely, causing blood to clot quickly.
Hemodilution helps maintain a proper volume of blood without transfusion. In this technique, some of the patient’s blood is removed shortly before surgery and replaced with a water- and mineral-based solution (see volume expander), diluting the blood. When blood is lost during surgery, it is replaced with the patient’s own blood. This technique minimizes the effects of blood loss and can help with clotting.
Certain medications, including those that do not contain blood factors, help the blood clot, and can be given before, during, or after surgery.
This anesthesia technique uses medications to lower the patient’s blood pressure in a carefully controlled way during surgery, resulting in less blood loss.
Frequent blood tests during a hospital stay can mean blood is drawn faster than the body can replace it. For example, patients in the intensive care unit typically lose 1-2% of their blood to testing each day. New lab technology allows us to draw smaller amounts of blood for the same tests in a procedure called micro-sampling.
Minimally invasive surgery
Many surgeries that once required large incisions can now be performed in a less invasive way, through tiny incisions and using very small tools. This helps minimize blood loss.
Using a device called a pulse oximeter, medical staff can measure the amount of oxygen in a patient’s blood through a sensor placed on the finger or earlobe. This oximetry technique avoids the need to draw blood for testing.
Volume expanders help maintain a healthy volume of fluid in the bloodstream. These non-blood-based solutions, often a combination of water and minerals, are an effective alternative to blood transfusions. (See hemodilution.)