Objectives: The obligatory hemodilution resulting from crystalloid priming of the cardiopulmonary bypass circuit represents a major risk factor for blood transfusion in cardiac operations. We therefore examined whether retrograde autologous priming of the bypass circuit would result in decreased hemodilution and red cell transfusion.
Methods: Sixty patients having first-time coronary bypass were prospectively randomized to cardiopulmonary bypass with or without retrograde autologous priming. Retrograde autologous priming was performed at the start of bypass by draining crystalloid prime from the arterial and venous lines into a recirculation bag (mean volume withdrawal: 880 +/- 150 ml). Perfusion and anesthetic techniques were otherwise identical for the two groups. The hematocrit value was maintained at a minimum of 16% and 23% during and after cardiopulmonary bypass, respectively, in all patients. Patients were well matched for all preoperative variables, including established transfusion risk factors. Subsequent hemodynamic parameters, pressor requirements, and fluid requirements were equivalent in the two groups.
Results: The lowest hematocrit value during cardiopulmonary bypass was 22% +/- 3% versus 20% +/- 3% in patients subjected to retrograde autologous priming and in control patients, respectively (p = 0.002). One (3%) of 30 patients subjected to retrograde autologous priming had intraoperative transfusion, and seven (23%) of 30 control patients required transfusion during the operation (p = 0.03). The number of patients receiving any homologous red cell transfusions in the two groups during the entire hospitalization was eight of 30 (27%; retrograde autologous priming) versus 16 of 30 (53%; control) (p = 0.03).
Conclusions: These data suggest that retrograde autologous priming is a safe and effective means of significantly decreasing hemodilution and the number of patients requiring red cell transfusion during cardiac operations.