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What are the Different Types of Transfusion Alternatives?

Article Details
  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 07 January 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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In 2011, there are no transfusion alternatives except to avoid a blood transfusion altogether. Some patients chose not to receive a transfusion due to religious reasons, while others express concerns about the possibility of contracting a blood-borne disease through a transfusion. It is the right of a patient to refuse to receive a blood transfusion. Health professionals recognize the need for transfusion alternatives both to offer an option to patients who wish to avoid transfusion and to decrease the risk of transmitting blood-borne diseases.

A patient seeking transfusion alternatives can often receive surgery from a doctor who will perform a bloodless operation. Many surgeries, including joint replacement, can be performed without the need for transfusion. Advancements in medical technology and the development of techniques that are less intrusive make it possible to perform many surgeries without much blood loss from the patient.

Since there are no transfusion alternatives available, patients who wish to decline blood transfusion during surgery need to be in good health before the surgery. If the patient is healthy going into the surgery, moderate blood loss will not cause much of a problem during recovery. Many elective surgeries, which can be planned in advance, give a patient time to get into good physical condition before the procedure. Patients who have been in an accident and who require immediate emergency surgery, of course, do not have the option of preparing for surgery.

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It is also possible, in some cases, for a patient to donate his own blood as a transfusion alternative. The donated blood is a definite match for the patient and poses no risk of passing on any diseases. There is still a chance, however, of complications arising that are similar to those caused by receiving disease free, compatible blood from a donor.

Though there are no transfusion alternatives available now, research is being done to develop alternatives. Synthetic blood has been developed that has shown promise in studies with animals. The synthetic materials need to be able to transport oxygen and medication into cells and also need to be flexible enough to fit through capillaries just as real red blood cells do. The lack of protein on a synthetic blood cell means that they can be used for patients of any blood type. There are no plans to start human tests, though doctors hope that the material may provide viable transfusion alternatives in the future.

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