Blood Salvaging

What is Blood Salvaging

Blood salvaging refers to using a device (blood salvage deviceor cell saver) to collect red blood cells that a person loses during surgery in order to reintroduce them into his or her bloodstream.

When is it done?

Blood salvaging may be done if:

  • A surgery is expected to cause a lot of bleeding. Surgeries that can cause a lot of bleeding include surgeries of the heart, bones, chest, or spine.
  • A lot of blood was lost before surgery. This can happen after a traumatic event, such as a car crash.
  • A person could not donate blood before surgery.
  • A person does not want another person’s blood in his or her body because of religious or personal beliefs.
  • A person is known to have anemia.

Blood salvaging may not be done if:

  • There is infection in the area of the body where surgery is being done. Blood salvaging could spread the infection.
  • The person having surgery has cancer. Blood salvaging could spread the cancer cells.
  • The person having surgery has sickle cell anemia. Blood salvaging would put abnormal red blood cells back into the body.
  • A woman is having a cesarean delivery. Blood salvaging could cause the baby’s blood to mix with the mother’s blood. Returning this combined blood could cause an allergic reaction in the mother.

How is it done?

Blood salvaging is done in the following way:

  • Blood that pools in the surgical site is sucked into a tube.
  • The blood is combined with a drug that prevents it from clotting.
  • The blood is filtered. The filtering process removes clots and other harmful substances.
  • Red blood cells are separated from other parts of the blood.
  • The red blood cells are washed.
  • A fluid is used to remove other kinds of cells from the red blood cells and anything else that should not be there.
  • The red blood cells are put back into the bloodstream through an IV tube.

What are the advantages and risks?

Blood salvaging offers these advantages:

  • Blood is reused in an efficient way.
  • There is no risk of getting too much fluid (fluid overload). Fluid overload can happen with some kinds of blood transfusions.
  • For most people, there are fewer risks involved than with using donated blood. This is because a person’s own blood usually does not contain anything that is dangerous to him or her.

Blood salvaging carries these risks:

  • The blood salvage device may fail to work properly.
  • Problems may occur with blood clotting. If a large amount of blood is replaced, clotting might not happen as it normally does.
  • More blood may be lost than what is possible to recover. If this happens, blood will be provided from a donor.
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