Acute normovolemic hemodilution (ANH) entails collecting blood from a patient immediately prior to surgery with concurrent fluid infusion to maintain intravascular volume constant. Blood collected during ANH is later reinfused to replace the red cell losses that occur during surgery. This technique is advocated as a means to reduce or eliminate homologous blood transfusion during surgery. Published guidelines for performing ANH vary, and the literature does not describe how to perform ANH to achieve the maximum benefit for a given patient. To evaluate how to save red blood cells as much as possible via ANH, and to determine the maximum benefit that can be expected, we developed a mathematic model of the process. Using the model, the net red cell mass savings possible when using ANH can be calculated given the patient's weight, initial hematocrit and minimum safe hematocrit. Results are reported to demonstrate the impact of the initial hematocrit and minimum safe hematocrit on the red cell savings possible with ANH. The data indicate that ANH does indeed save red blood cells that would otherwise be lost during surgery. However, the red cell savings possible when using ANH are not as much as typically published and, a degree of hemodilution more than that which is typically recommended is necessary to achieve even modest red cell savings.