Bloodless Medicine FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about the practice of bloodless medicine.

What is bloodless care?

Bloodless medicine, also known as transfusion-free, is an advanced program of medical care in which we perform medical and surgical procedures without the use of banked (or stored) allogenic blood or primary blood components. Blood loss often occurs during surgery. A bloodless program endeavors to minimize blood loss by using blood conservation methods.

Why would someone choose bloodless care?

People choose to avoid blood transfusions for a variety of personal reasons. For some, it might be a matter of religious belief or personal conviction. For others, they might seek to avoid the risk of blood-borne infections and prevent immune system suppression.

How can you perform surgery without blood?

Our Lakewood staff prepares you with medication and iron supplements for a few weeks prior to surgery to stimulate the production of more red blood cells. During surgery, our team conserves your blood by using meticulous technique and state-of-the-art surgical instruments to stop or prevent excessive bleeding. In many cases, blood lost during a surgical procedure can be salvaged and recycled.

Is bloodless medicine a safe alternative?

In most cases, you can safely avoid transfusions. Experts are finding that patients can tolerate and safely recover from much lower blood counts than previously thought.

How is blood donated in the United States screened?

In the U.S., donor blood is tested for several infectious diseases. However, there are other infectious agents that are not screened. Furthermore, introducing donor blood into your system can suppress your body’s immune system and make infection more likely.

Will my insurance cover the cost of bloodless treatment?

Lakewood accepts many forms of insurance and can work with others to arrange for care on a case-by-case basis.

What if I am in an accident and require emergency treatment or surgery?

Make sure you are taken to a facility with a bloodless care program like Lakewood. If you can speak for yourself, tell the emergency room personnel, admitting personnel, nurses and other staff about your choice for transfusion-free care. At Lakewood, our program coordinator will be alerted to your admission and visit you to make sure your wishes are documented.

What if I cannot speak for myself in an emergency situation?

Tell your friends, relatives, co-workers or anyone who might be in a position to speak on your behalf. Put your wishes in writing in the form of a living will or advance directive. Give a copy of this to several people to maintain. You may also carry a card stating your wishes in an obvious location. Attach it to your driver’s license, for example. The Lakewood staff can help you create an advance directive if you do not have one.

Will you provide bloodless treatment for my child?

Yes. With the consent of a legal guardian, we will. Lakewood physicians have agreed to explore and exhaust all non-blood alternatives in the treatment of children. However, California State Law does require physicians to administer blood transfusions to minors if the transfusion is judged necessary to prevent immediate death or loss of function of a major organ.

If I choose bloodless care, can I change my mind at a later date?

Yes, participation in the bloodless program is completely voluntary, and you may withdraw at any time.

Why should I choose Lakewood for bloodless care?

We deliver transfusion-free services at an individualized level tailored to your specific medical needs. Our program coordinator is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist you and answer your questions. Lakewood physicians that are committed to transfusion-free services represent a full range of medical and surgical disciplines.

Have attitudes toward bloodless care changed in the medical community?

With the advent of universal testing of all donor blood, the medical community embraced the idea that when in doubt, it was better to transfuse than not to transfuse. Now, with a clearer understanding of anemia and its effects on the body, this conventional wisdom is being challenged. In fact, we know that with the use of pharmaceutical agents, intravenous fluids, along with improved diagnostic procedures and surgical techniques, bloodless care can prevent or lessen the anemia associated with surgery and other medical procedures.

How can someone prepare for bloodless surgery?

We can help you prepare your body to compensate for blood loss during surgery with a number of approved pharmaceutical agents that lessen or prevent anemia. These agents include erythropoieten and iron, which are typically used prior to surgery to stimulate the bone marrow’s production of red blood cells. We can also use these agents after emergency surgery to rebuild your red blood count.

Do you conserve blood during diagnostic testing?

Advanced laboratory technology allows us to use fewer samples of blood for diagnostic testing. Sometimes only one sample of blood can be used for multiple tests, rather than the numerous samples drawn typically. Additionally, microsampling, or smaller amounts of blood, has become just as effective in testing as larger, conventionally sized samples. By using fewer and smaller blood samples, we can significantly reduce the blood loss associated with essential diagnostic tests.

How do you reduce blood loss during surgery?

We minimize blood loss during surgery with operative techniques such as avoiding small cuts, immediate clamping or cauterizing of bleeding vessels. The choice of instrumentation also plays an important role. Electrocautery, surgical lasers and argon beam coagulators cause less blood loss than traditional cutting scalpels and help in the clotting of blood during surgery. Additionally, minimally invasive surgery, such as the use of endoscopic or laparoscopic technique, usually result in much less blood loss than traditional open forms of surgery.

How do you conserve blood during surgery?

We use advanced techniques to salvage and recycle blood lost during certain types of surgeries. For example, blood that spills in the chest or abdominal cavity can be collected, filtered and re-infused in a continuous process. We use this technique in trauma as well as in the operating suite to ensure we salvage as much blood as possible.

Lakewood staff also conserves blood with hemodilution. We draw blood, followed by the immediate infusion of intravenous fluids to replace the missing blood. Blood lost during the surgery will be diluted by the intravenous fluid and therefore fewer red cells are lost. At the same time, the blood that was drawn is slowly returned via a continuous circuit that is linked to your circulatory system, replacing the lost red blood cells.

How can I be sure my wishes for bloodless care will be respected?

At Lakewood, we are committed to providing the highest quality care to our transfusion-free patients. You will be clearly identified to all relevant hospital staff to ensure your bloodless treatment plan is maintained at all times. You and your family will be involved in every step of the diagnostic and treatment decision-making process. Our program coordinator is available to you and your family before, during and after hospitalization to assist you and answer your questions.

If you have additional questions, please call (855) 580-3668 to learn more about our transfusion-free services.