A randomized controlled trial of cell salvage in routine cardiac surgery

Anesth Analg. 2008 Nov;107(5):1487-95. doi: 10.1213/ane.0b013e3181831e54.


Background: Previous trials have indicated that cell salvage may reduce allogeneic blood transfusion during cardiac surgery, but these studies have limitations, including inconsistent use of other blood transfusion-sparing strategies. We designed a randomized controlled trial to determine whether routine cell salvage for elective uncomplicated cardiac surgery reduces blood transfusion and is cost effective in the setting of a rigorous transfusion protocol and routine administration of antifibrinolytics.

Methods: Two-hundred-thirteen patients presenting for first-time coronary artery bypass grafting and/or cardiac valve surgery were prospectively randomized to control or cell salvage groups. The latter group had blood aspirate during surgery and mediastinal drainage the first 6 h after surgery processed in a cell saver device and autotransfused. All patients received tranexamic acid and were subjected to an algorithm for red blood cell and hemostatic blood factor transfusion.

Results: There was no difference between the two groups in the proportion of patients exposed to allogeneic blood (32% in both groups, relative risk 1.0 P = 0.89). At current blood products and cell saver prices, the use of cell salvage increased the costs per patient by a minimum of $103. When patients who had mediastinal re-exploration for bleeding were excluded (as planned in the protocol), significantly fewer units of allogeneic red blood cells were transfused in the cell salvage compared with the control group (65 vs 100 U, relative risk 0.71 P = 0.04).

Conclusion: In patients undergoing routine first-time cardiac surgery in an institution with a rigorous blood conservation program, the routine use of cell salvage does not further reduce the proportion of patients exposed to allogeneic blood transfusion. However, patients who do not have excessive bleeding after surgery receive significantly fewer units of blood with cell salvage. Although the use of cell savage may reduce the demand for blood products during cardiac surgery, this comes at an increased cost to the institution.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aortic Valve / surgery*
  • Blood Loss, Surgical / prevention & control*
  • Blood Transfusion
  • Blood Transfusion, Autologous / methods*
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Coronary Artery Bypass / methods*
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / methods*
  • Heart Arrest
  • Heart Valve Prosthesis Implantation / methods*
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Period
  • Middle Aged

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN17615029