Autotransfusion of washed shed mediastinal fluid decreases the requirement for autologous blood transfusion following cardiac surgery: a prospective randomized trial

Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 1999 Jun;15(6):830-4. doi: 10.1016/s1010-7940(99)00112-8.


Objectives: The National Blood Service issues 2.2 million units of blood per year, 10% of these (220000) are utilized in cardiac procedures. Transfusion reactions, infection risk and cost should stimulate us to decrease this transfusion rate. We test the efficacy of autotransfusion following surgery in a prospective randomized trial.

Methods: One hundred and twelve patients undergoing CABG, valve or CABG + valve procedures were randomized into two groups. Group A received washed postoperative drainage fluid and group C were controls. The indication for transfusion was a postoperative haemoglobin (Hb) < 10 g/l or a PCV < 30. There was no significant difference in preoperative and operative variables between the groups.

Results: Twenty-eight patients in group A and 46 in group C required homologous transfusion (P = 0.0008). Group A patients required 298+/-49 ml of banked blood per patient, group C 508+/-49 ml (P = 0.003). There was no difference in total blood required (volume autotransfused + volume banked blood transfused) between the groups (group A 404+/-50 ml, group C 508+/-50 ml) or in mean total mediastinal fluid drainage (group A 652+/-51 ml, group C 686+/-50ml). The mean Hb concentration was significantly higher in group A on day 1 (11.2 g/dl+/-51 vs. 10.6 g/dl+/-13 (P = 0.002)). No morbidity was associated with autotransfusion.

Conclusion: Autotransfusion can decrease the amount of homologous blood transfused following cardiac surgery. This represents a benefit to the patient and a decrease in cost to the health service.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Transfusion
  • Blood Transfusion, Autologous / methods*
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures*
  • Coronary Artery Bypass
  • Drainage
  • Female
  • Heart Valves / surgery
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Mediastinum
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Prospective Studies


  • Hemoglobins