Transfusion-Free Surgical Program Helpful for Liver Transplantation Patients

CHICAGO – Development of a transfusion-free surgical program for Jehovah’s Witness patients undergoing liver transplantation also has helped reduce the overall use of blood products for non-Jehovah’s Witnesses undergoing the procedure, according to a study in the September issue of Archives of Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

“Orthotopic liver transplantation [in which a patient’s diseased liver is removed and a donor liver transplanted into the same place] is typically associated with a large volume of blood loss, resulting in multiple transfusions and related complications,” the authors describe in background information in the article. “Transfusion-free surgery is rapidly gaining much-needed attention primarily because of the concerns surrounding transmission of diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis C and other viral infections. Additionally, long-term shortage of blood products and a paucity of alternatives put the system under duress, resulting in cancellation or postponement of elective cases.”

Nicolas Jabbour, M.D., from the INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center, Oklahoma City, and colleagues analyzed the medical records of 365 adult and pediatric orthotopic liver transplants performed from January 1997 through December 2004 at the University of Southern California-University Hospital in Los Angeles. The investigators evaluated the impact of the initiation of a transfusion-free program for Jehovah’s Witnesses undergoing liver transplantation on the overall use of blood products in non-Jehovah’s Witnesses undergoing the procedure. The pediatric and Jehovah’s Witness transplant recipients were eliminated from the study, leaving only adult non-Jehovah’s Witness patients who either received a liver transplant from a deceased donor or a living donor (n=272). These patients were categorized into two groups based on the initiation of the Transfusion-Free Medicine and Surgery Program at USC (for Jehovah’s Witnesses) in January 2000. Group 1 consisted of recipients who received the liver transplant before January 2000 and group 2 included all patients who underwent transplantation after January 2000.

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