Heart transplants performed without using donated blood

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs donated blood for surgeries.

Now, a new technique is catching on across the country that doesn't require any donated blood.

Andrew Craver is a child whose heart was so weak it couldn't pump enough blood, or get enough oxygen to his organs. Andrew's only option was a heart transplant, but the Cravers' religion stood in the way.

"We are Jehovah's Witnesses," Andrew's father Ian explained.

Dr. Mark Galantowicz with Nationwide Children's Hospital said, "One of the main tenants of the faith is the blood carries the soul, so a blood transfusion is sacrilegious."

Dr. Galantowicz and his team at Nationwide Children's Hospital performed a heart transplant without using a single drop of donated blood, making Andrew the youngest recipient of a bloodless heart transplant.

"The blood comes out of the body, goes through an artificial lung, an artificial kidney, an artificial heart, a heater, a cooler," Galantowicz explained.

First, minimal blood tests are taken, while the patient takes medicine to stimulate red blood-cell growth. During surgery, special machines catch any excess blood loss and return it to the body. After surgery, the goal is to wean patients off the ventilator as quickly as possible to aid in blood conservation. The bloodless transplant can reduce the risk of infection, but there is an increased risk of cell death and brain injury.

For Andrew, the surgery was successful. His mother, Rachel Craver, said, "In a few days, he was even riding his bike."

It's a medical first that may set the standard of saving lives and saving blood.

The doctor says the bloodless transplants could ease blood shortages across the country, as well as reduce infection and rejection rates and time spent in the ICU.


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