Is it possible to perform a surgery without blood transfusion
Italy’s medical journal Tempo Medico has considered “the question of whether blood transfusion is always really required” in medical procedures. From its observations, the journal declares: “It can definitely be said that the cases where transfusion is so necessary that the lack of same represents danger to life are fewer every day.”
Tempo Medico goes on to suggest that, because of the significant risks inherent in transfusion therapy, “the question is justified whether it might not be worthwhile—as regards treatment in general,—to reconsider treatments that may have become habitual, and limit transfusions.” The article continues:
“It is with this in mind, that Denton Cooley [of Houston, Texas] has performed open-heart operations now for over seven years, limiting transfusions wherever possible by substituting hemodilution, diluting the patient’s blood with a glucose and heparin solution. If this method has given excellent results since then . . . one wonders why it has not been extended to present-day surgery.
“One surgeon, Dr. Cesare Buresta, working in a district hospital at Ripatransone, in the province of Ascoli Piceno, has done so, starting in 1974 by operating on some patients and abiding by their will. . . . According to Dr. Buresta, his results show that it is possible to perform surgical operations avoiding blood transfusions, at least in most cases, without subjecting patients to risks that are greater than normal. Of course, it is necessary to use every surgical technique possible to reduce blood losses to a minimum. It is evident that the employment of these techniques renders surgical operations more delicate and complicated. The possibility, now apparently a reality, of avoiding transfusion is, in other words, paid in labor, preparatory work and equipment.”
“Nonetheless,” concludes the paper, “medicine must honestly face up to the question of whether it is not worth while to make an effort to this end by increasing the number of wards and surgical teams that can employ the above-mentioned techniques. It doesn’t mean just satisfying the wishes of some patients, but considering whether complying with their wishes might not end up being of benefit to all, or at any rate a stimulus to new research. Their position gives an incentive to get the waters of habitual therapy, always a bit stagnant, moving.”—December 1980.