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Ann Thorac Surg. 1998 Mar;65(3):724-30.

Reduction of allogeneic blood transfusions after open heart operations by lowering cardiopulmonary bypass prime volume.

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Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Boston Medical Center, Massachusetts 02118, USA.



Despite recent advances in blood conservation techniques, up to 30% to 80% of patients undergoing open heart operations require allogeneic blood transfusions. A prospective, randomized study was performed to test the effect of lowering cardiopulmonary bypass prime volume (as an additional component of an integrated blood conservation strategy) on clinical outcome and allogeneic blood transfusion.


One hundred fourteen patients undergoing open heart operations were randomized to either full prime (FP) volume (1,400 mL of Plasmalyte solution) or reduced prime (RP) volume (600 to 800 mL). The reduction of prime volume was achieved by slowly draining the cardiopulmonary bypass circuit into a cell-saving device before the initiation of bypass. Firm transfusion thresholds were observed.


There were no significant differences between the groups with respect to baseline characteristics, body surface area, type and urgency of the procedures, perfusion technique, and hematologic profile. Mortality (FP, 1.7%; RP, 0%; p approximately 1.0) and overall morbidity (FP, 28.1%; RP, 22.8%; p = 0.53) were similar. However, transfusion requirements were significantly lower in the RP group: total donor exposure, 3.8 +/- 10.1 versus 1.0 +/- 2.4 units (p = 0.044); percentage of patients transfused, 54% (n = 31) versus 35% (n = 20) (p = 0.036). Twenty-four-hour chest tube drainage was similar: 455 +/- 223 mL for FP versus 472 +/- 173 mL for RP (p = 0.66). The lowest hematocrit on bypass was significantly higher in the RP group: 29.3% +/- 4% versus 26.3% +/- 5.3% (p = 0.009).


Lowering cardiopulmonary bypass prime volume resulted in a significant decrease in allogeneic blood product use. Because postoperative 24-hour chest tube drainage was similar in both groups, and hematocrit during bypass was higher in the RP group, the reduction in allogeneic blood transfusions appears to be related to a decrease in prime-induced hemodilution. This technique is effective, simple, and safe. It therefore should be strongly considered for patients undergoing operations using normothermic or near-normothermic cardiopulmonary bypass who are at high risk for allogeneic blood transfusion.

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