Advanced Bloodless Cardiac Surgery

The University of Chicago Medicine’s Bloodless Heart Surgery Program is at the forefront of heart care every day, pushing the boundaries of experience and innovation to perform the most complex bloodless heart surgeries. We take pride in looking beyond typical treatments to find our patients a solution that not only makes their particular preferences paramount, but also delivers high-quality care. By offering bloodless heart surgery (or transfusion-free heart surgery), we perform life-saving surgery without compromising our patients’ religious or personal reasons for needing “no blood” surgical or medical treatment. Our patients receive individualized treatment plans and personalized services that address and accommodate their wishes regarding transfusion and replacement blood products.

UChicago Medicine’s willingness to take on more complicated cases over the last several decades is one of the many reasons we draw patients nationwide. We are one of the few hospitals with a bloodless cardiac surgery program that performs blood free heart transplants and ventricular assist device surgery for congestive heart failure patients. Our multidisciplinary team is led by one the most respected cardiac surgeons in the country, and we have saved hundreds of patients who desperately needed heart surgery. The expert team of cardiac surgeons, anesthesiologists and hematologists is committed to offering alternative therapies for “no blood” patients with heart disease that enable them to return to active, full lives.

What is Bloodless Surgery?

Bloodless cardiac surgery is a safe alternative for patients who have serious heart conditions but cannot or choose not to receive any blood or blood products (red cells, white cells, plasma or platelets). During bloodless heart surgery, our physicians use meticulous surgical techniques and innovative procedures that minimize surgical blood loss and avoid the need for a transfusion during surgery. And because we understand how important it is to preserve our patients’ self-respect and legal rights, we treat each patient as an integral part of the health care team. Our doctors work with each patient individually to develop a personalized bloodless surgery strategy.

To prepare for transfusion-free surgery, we might ask our patients to take certain measures designed to maximize their blood counts before the procedure, including:

  • Increase iron through dietary changes and supplements
  • Stop smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Take vitamins that compliment blood optimization (folic acid)
  • Temporarily cease the use of over-the-counter pain medication (aspirin, ibuprofen) and anti-coagulants (warfarin), and supplements like vitamin E and fish oil
  • Take medications (Epogen) to improve blood counts

Blood-Sparing Surgical Techniques

Our experts deliver first-class care by combining the highest level of skill with the latest techniques, including:

Cell Saver: This machine collects blood that is lost during surgery and recycles it back into the patient’s body. The Cell Saver will remove any debris and other contaminants from the blood and separate the red blood cells to be returned to the patient through an intravenous line. 

Cardiopulmonary Bypass: The heart-lung machine is used to divert the blood and add oxygen to it before returning to the heart. This replaces the function of the lungs and is primarily used so the heart can be stopped for surgery.

Hemodilution: Before surgery a particular amount of concentrated blood is drawn from the patient and the same amount of fluid is infused into the patient’s body to dilute their blood so there is less blood lose during surgery. After surgery, the concentrated blood is returned to the patient’s body

Benefits of Bloodless Surgery

Blood-sparing (or blood conserving) cardiac surgery offers patients a transfusion-free alternative that features a wide range of advantages besides the lack of reliance on national blood banks. Patients who choose bloodless medicine can experience positive advantages like:

  • Avoidance of blood-borne viruses and infections through transfusion
  • Stronger immune system after surgery without a transfusion
  • Prevention of inflammatory and allergic reactions through blood transfusion
  • Fewer reactions from blood stored for a longer period of time
  • Precludes hemolytic transfusion reactions caused by donor blood antibodies after transfusion

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Bloodless Heart Surgery