Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) represent a complex patient population due to their refusal to accept blood transfusions on religious grounds. Pharmacologic management of anemic JW patients is limited to stimulation of hematopoiesis by iron and erythropoietin supplementation and reduction of blood loss by prothrombin complex concentrates (PCCs). Hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOCs) represent the only pharmacologic modality for JW patients capable of acutely increasing a patient's oxygen carrying capacity in the setting of organ failure, yet clinical safety and efficacy data are lacking in this population. We report 3 cases in which the HBOC, PEGylated carboxyhemoglobin bovine (Sanguinate®), was requested under emergent circumstances for severely anemic (hemoglobin <5 g/dL) JW patients who refused blood transfusions. Two patients received PEGylated carboxyhemoglobin infusions for severe anemia, while the third patient died prior to receiving the medication. One patient who received Sanguinate died after 5 units of medication. The other patient's hemoglobin recovered and she was discharged in stable condition. This series demonstrates the complex nature of the critically anemic JW population and highlights the clinical considerations of using HBOCs in clinical practice and the critical need for further research before they can be broadly recommended.
Keywords: Jehovah’s Witness; PEGylated carboxyhemoglobin bovine; Sanguinate; anemia; hemoglobin-based oxygen carrier.