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Background

Based on biblical doctrines, patients of the Jehovah's Witness faith refuse allogeneic blood transfusion. Cardiac surgery carries a high risk of blood transfusion, but has been performed in Jehovah's Witnesses for many years. The literature contains information on the outcomes of this cohort, but does not detail the perioperative care of these patients. This article describes a single institution's experience in perioperative care of Jehovah's Witnesses undergoing cardiac surgery.

Study Design and Methods

A chart review of adult Jehovah's Witness patients undergoing cardiac surgery at Duke University between January 2005 and June 2012 was completed. Institutional protocols regarding preoperative erythropoietin (EPO) therapy and intraoperative isovolemic hemodilution are detailed. Patient demographics and use of various blood conservation techniques are described. Hemoglobin (Hb) at various points throughout the perioperative management, hospital length of stay, and mortality are reviewed as indicators of outcome.

Results

Forty-five Jehovah's Witness patients underwent cardiac surgery at Duke University Medical Center. Preoperative EPO increased the mean Hb by 1.2 g/dL before surgery. Intraoperative normovolemic hemodilution was used in 37 patients with intraoperative mean nadir Hb of 10.3 g/dL. Antifibrinolytics and desmopressin were commonly used as coagulation adjuncts. Mean cardiopulmonary bypass time was 137 minutes, with mean nadir temperature of 30.5°C. The mean length of hospital stay was 6.2 days, with mean intensive care unit stay of 1.7 days. This cohort had zero 90-day mortality in the perioperative period.

Conclusions

This case series demonstrates that bloodless cardiac surgery can be performed in select patients refusing allogeneic blood transfusion.