Health Watch

Bloodless heart transplant

Thursday, March 29, 2012

From car accidents, to cancer to heart failure. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs donated blood for surgeries. Now, a new technique is catching on across the country that doesn't require any.

It's hard to believe a year ago, Andrew Craver barely had the energy to laugh.

"One of the blood tests came back, and said he had congestive heart failure," Ian Craver, Andrew's dad, told Ivanhoe.

Andrew's heart was so weak it couldn't pump enough blood, or get enough oxygen to his organs.

"He just sort of looked like a small, frail, tired child at the time," Mark Galantowicz, M.D., FACS, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Nationwide Children's Hospital, said.

Andrew's only option was a heart transplant, but the Craver's religion stood in the way.

"We are Jehovah's witnesses. Our goal is to get the best care for our children, but we choose to do it without blood transfusions," Ian said.

"One of the main tenants of the faith is the blood carries the soul so a blood transfusion is sacrilegious." Dr. Galantowicz said.

Dr. Mark Galantowicz and his team performed a heart transplant without using a single drop of donated blood, making Andrew the youngest recipient of a bloodless heart transplant.

"The blood comes out of the body, goes through an artificial lung, an artificial kidney, an artificial heart, a heater, and a cooler," Dr. Galantowicz said.

First, minimal blood tests are taken, while he takes medicine to stimulate red blood cell growth. During surgery, special machines catch any excess blood loss and return it to the body. After surgery, the goal is to wean patients off the ventilator as quickly as possible to aid in blood conservation.

"He's doing great!" Dr. Galantowicz said.

The bloodless transplant can reduce the risk of infection, but there is an increased risk of cell death and brain injury. For Andrew, the surgery was successful.

"He was up walking around the next day. In a few days he was even riding his bike," Rachel Craver, Andrew's mom said.

"He's got these big puffy cute cheeks, he's grown. He's got energy," Dr. Galantowicz said.

It's a medical first that may set the standard of saving lives and saving blood. The doctor says the bloodless transplants could ease blood shortages across the country, as well as reduce infection rates, rejection rates and time spent in the ICU.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Nationwide Children's Hospital
Media Relations
(614) 355-0495

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