Background: Haemorrhage is one of the commonest causes of maternal critical care admission. Cell salvage used during caesarean section can contribute to a reduction in allogeneic blood consumption. This study sought to provide a practical method to salvage blood lost after vaginal delivery and a description of the constituents before and after washing.
Methods: Blood lost after vaginal delivery was collected from 50 women and washed in a cell salvage machine. No blood was re-infused to any patient in this study. The following measurements were made pre- and post-wash: haemoglobin (haematocrit), alpha-fetoprotein, albumin, lactate dehydrogenase, plasma free haemoglobin, heparin concentration, fetal red cells and identification of bacterial species and colony-forming units (cfu).
Results: Median haemoglobin concentration post-wash was 15.4 g/dL. Alpha-fetoprotein, lactate dehydrogenase and albumin concentrations were significantly reduced post-wash (<1 KU/L, 183 IU/L, 0.011 g/L, respectively; P <0.001). Median fetal red cell level post-wash was 0.15 mL [range 0-19 mL]. Median bacterial contamination concentration post-wash was 2 cfu/mL, with a median total count of 303 cfu.
Conclusions: Vaginal blood can be collected efficiently with little disruption to patient management. The amounts of haemolysis and washout of non-red cell blood components are consistent with results in our cell salvage quality assurance programme for caesarean section and non-obstetric surgery. Although bacteria are detectable in all the post-wash and post-filter samples, the median residual contamination is similar to that found with cell salvage in caesarean section, and if re-infused would result in a circulating bacteraemia of <1 cfu/mL; this is similar to that seen with dental procedures (0.3-4.0 cfu/mL) and is thought to be clinically insignificant.
Keywords: Autologous; Bacteria; Blood transfusion; Intra-operative cell salvage; Obstetrics; Postpartum haemorrhage.
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