At Seattle Children’s Heart Center, our Blood Conservation Program offers unique options for families who prefer that their child not receive blood products or a blood transfusion. We are dedicated to providing the best medical and surgical care for your child while respecting your religious, cultural and personal values about receiving stored or donated blood.

What is blood conservation?

Blood conservation means using methods to limit blood loss during surgery. It’s the standard of care for all patients at Seattle Children’s. Methods to limit blood loss can help reduce the need for stored or donated blood products.

What is bloodless surgery?

Typically, doctors use stored or donated blood products to:

  • Replace blood that a child loses during or after heart surgery.
  • Prepare (prime) a heart-lung pump to circulate a child’s blood during surgery.
  • Increase a child’s blood volume so the heart-lung pump can support the child more easily.

For certain surgeries, use of stored or donated blood products is the standard of care and is considered safest for the child. However, surgery can also be done without the use of stored or donated blood. This is called bloodless, no-blood or transfusion-free surgery. Depending on your child’s unique needs, bloodless surgery may be a safe option.

Seattle Children’s offers bloodless surgery for interested families. (Children with anemia may not be good candidates because any blood loss from surgery will decrease their red blood cells, which are already low.)

We will collaborate with you to decide on a treatment plan that’s right for your child, taking into account your beliefs and values. Before surgery, we will ask you to consent to procedures your child will need or might need. If you object to transfusions, we will talk with you about bloodless surgery options in order to understand, record and follow your wishes whenever possible.

If you are choosing a hospital for your child’s heart surgery, we are happy to talk with you in advance about doing bloodless surgery here. Call the Heart Center at 206-987-2515 to speak with Dr. Jonathan Chen, division chief, Cardiothoracic Surgery.

What’s special about the experience at Seattle Children’s?

Seattle Children’s is a leader in heart surgery. We plan and perform each heart surgery to conserve blood and reduce the need for blood products and transfusions. Results from bloodless surgery show that it may be as safe and effective as surgery using stored or donated blood.

Bloodless surgery requires the skills of many experienced specialists working as a team. We have experts who have performed complex heart surgeries using bloodless methods and helped design many of the processes and techniques that other hospitals use around the country.

We routinely use these methods to limit or avoid using blood products for all children:

  • Nutrition and medicines, such as erythropoietin (EPO) to improve your child’s blood cell levels
  • Smaller incisions and less cutting through tissue so your child loses less blood
  • Cell Saver technology to collect, clean and return lost blood to your child during surgery
  • Clotting factors to control bleeding
  • Albumin to adjust your child’s blood volume
  • Acute normovolemic hemodilution to limit loss of blood cells

Our expert cardiopulmonary perfusionists carefully monitor and manage blood flow and breathing for all children on a heart-lung pump. Their training and experience are essential to providing bloodless surgery.

For babies who need a heart-lung pump, Seattle Children’s is one of the few hospitals in the nation to use a microcircuit. This special machine can support babies by circulating their very small volume of blood, often without the need to add blood products from a donor.

Who’s on the team?

Our experienced team provides the care your child needs in a sensitive and supportive environment. The team includes:

  • Cardiac surgeons
  • Hematologists
  • Cardiologists
  • Cardiac anesthesiologists  
  • Cardiac intensivists  
  • Cardiopulmonary perfusionists

How to Contact Us

To find out about your child having bloodless heart surgery at Seattle Children’s, call the Heart Center at 206-987-2515 to speak with Dr. Chen.