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Bloodless Surgery

The average adult body contains about 10 to 12 pints of blood, accounting for approximately seven percent of bodyweight. According to the National Blood Data Resource Center, approximately 8 million volunteers donated more than 15 million units of blood in 2001; the most recent year data was collected. With most blood banks struggling to maintain a three-day supply, there is a constant need for more blood donations across the nation.

While the demand for blood is reason enough for hospitals and doctors to turn to methods of surgery that require little to no blood transfusion, there are other reasons as well. Some religions forbid the transfusion of blood, while other people are wary of the remote chance of receiving tainted blood. These factors, coupled with advances in minimally invasive surgery, have lead to the popularization of bloodless surgery.

Dr. Harwin has been a proponent of bloodless surgery for decades, having treated hundreds of patients who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. These patients will not accept blood or blood products under any circumstance and this requires skilled and meticulous surgical technique.

Dr. Harwin treats blood as a ‘drug’ (see Dr. Harwin’s interview in the journal ORTHOPAEDICS ) and limits transfustions for patients. He has helped develop protocols of blood management and served as Director of Total Joint Replacement Bloodless Surgery Program at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City.

What is Bloodless Surgery?

Bloodless surgery refers to any procedure that requires no introduction of blood from outside sources. No surgery can be completely blood free, since every patient will bleed when incisions are made, but patients and doctors can work together to avoid introducing outside blood sources into the procedure. A common method of achieving a bloodless surgery is for patients to bank their own blood, a process called autologous blood transfusion. By having a store of the patient’s own blood on hand, surgeons are free to transfuse as much as is necessary without worrying about rejection or contamination. Surgeons can also minimize blood loss by utilizing minimally invasive surgical techniques and prescribing medications that slow the flow of blood during surgery.

Bloodless Surgery for Jehova's Witness Joint Replacement Patients

Religious Reasons for Bloodless Surgery

Some religions, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, forbid the faithful from receiving blood transfusions. Dr. Harwin is sensitive to any and all religious implications of the surgeries he performs and will work with his staff to make sure every procedure complies with each patient’s religious beliefs. Through careful planning and preparation, Dr. Harwin can minimize or eliminate the need for outside transfusions in an effort to create truly bloodless surgeries. Using his bloodless surgery protocol, Dr. Harwin transufuses blood in less than 5% of his surgical procedures and never in Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Benefits for Every Patient with Bloodless Surgery

While the risk of contamination from blood transfusions is very small, if transfusion is necessary, bloodless surgery assures patients that the blood they are receiving is 100 percent safe. Autologous blood transfusion also eliminates any risk that the patient’s body might reject the transfused blood. By eliminating these risks, bloodless surgery is seen as one of the safest ways for surgeons to operate.

New York City’s Bloodless Surgery Expert

Board certified orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Steven F. Harwin has over 30 years of clinical and research experience, and performs hundreds of cases of bloodless surgery per year including bloodless total hip and total knee replacements. As Chief of Adult Reconstructive Surgery of the Hip and Knee at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Dr. Harwin has been named the “Best Doctor in America,” “Top Doctor in the New York Metro Area,” and a “New York Super Doctor.” Dr. Harwin serves as the chief surgeon at the Center for Reconstructive Joint Surgery in New York City and was Director of Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s Total Joint Replacement Bloodless Surgery Program.

Find out more about Dr. Harwin and how to make an appointment at one of his New York City office.

By Dr. Steven Harwin