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Transfusion-Free Cardiothoracic Surgery

The USC cardiothoracic surgery team has been specializing in many aspects of cardiovascular disease treatment for years. These surgeons, along with their clinical, research and administrative staffs, offer comprehensive, advanced therapy for many diseases of the chest including adult cardiac surgery, minimally invasive cardiac surgery, endoscopic vein harvest, adult thoracic surgery, video-assisted thoracic surgery, pediatric cardiac and thoracic surgery, and heart and lung transplantation.

As challenging as these sound, our cardiothoracic surgeons have done what many consider complex heart surgery, transfusion-free.

Since Vaughn A. Starnes, M.D., professor and chair of the department of cardiothoracic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, joined Keck Hospital of USC in 1992, the clinical programs in cardiac surgery, thoracic surgery and transplantation surgery have continued to grow. This is illustrated in the transplantation program, which includes adult and pediatric heart, lung, and heart-lung procedures-including pioneering the living-donor lung transplants.

Transfusion-Free Expertise

A focus for Dr. Starnes is transfusion-free medicine. He first gained experience in transfusion-free techniques during his training at Stanford University. In the past few years, he has helped make bloodless surgery a "real emphasis" at Keck Hospital of USC.

Many doctors feel there is no need to expose patients to potential infection or inflammatory reactions that may be associated with transfusions. While there is no doubt that transfusion-free medicine is more challenging, it may be also better medicine for the patient.

Quality Care in a University Setting

Our physicians and surgeons who participate in the USC Transfusion-Free Medicine and Surgery Program are faculty members, many who are leaders in their fields. Patients can benefit from our academic affiliation by receiving access to some of the latest medical advances and expertise available at Keck Hospital of USC and the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital. These are world-renowned patient care facilities located on the Health Sciences Campus of the University of Southern California.

Advanced Skills and Technology

Various alternatives to blood transfusions have been made possible through advances in medical and surgical techniques and technology. Blood loss can be minimized through:

  • Using lasers rather than scalpels.
  • Using cellsavers during surgery to collect, recirculate and readminister the patient's own blood.
  • Enhancing circulation of the patient's own blood during surgery by using volume expanders or intravenous fluids.
  • Tracking oxygen levels during surgery with skin monitors.
  • Speeding blood clotting during surgery with an argon beam coagulator.
  • Stimulating bone marrow to produce red blood cells in advance of a procedure.
  • Utilizing intraoperative hypotension anesthesia to lower blood pressure during surgery, minimizing bleeding.

"Bloodless" means medical or surgical treatment without the use of banked (stored) allogenic blood or primary blood components. Blood loss often occurs during surgery. A bloodless program endeavors to minimize blood loss by utilizing special blood conservation methods.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact our Program Manager Randy Henderson by calling (323) 442-5849 or toll-free at (800) USC-CARE. Even if you are not planning a hospital stay in the future, you may contact us to discuss your wishes for future care or get your specific questions answered. It is particularly important to plan ahead for emergency situations.

Transfusion-Free Articles and Patient Stories

  • USC Cardiothoracic Surgeons Provide Complex Heart Surgeries, Transfusion-Free
    Heart transplants without the need for blood transfusions. Mitral valve repairs without using major blood components. As challenging as these sound, cardiothoracic surgeons at Keck Hospital of USC have done what many consider complex heart surgery, transfusion-free. More...

  • Surgical Tricks of the Trade: Specialized Techniques Make a Complex Surgery Manageable
    Several techniques are used prior to heart surgery to help boost red blood cell volume so that a patient can withstand some blood loss. Red blood cell volume is measured by hematocrit levels, which are calculated as the percentage of total blood volume. More...

  • Robert Teele's Story: From the Bitter Cold of Alaska to the Sunny Warmth of Southern California
    In February 1997, a flu epidemic hit Fairbanks, Alaska. Robert K. Teele IV, now 32, remembers being "really sick" that winter, with a high temperature and aches and pains. Ultimately, Teele's flu caused more havoc than a sore throat, runny nose and fever. Unbeknownst to Teele, the flu virus had attacked his heart-resulting in a condition called cardiomyopathy. In this serious disease, the heart becomes inflamed, the heart muscle weakens, and the heart cannot pump blood efficiently. More...

  • Rayito Barajas' Story: Worthy of Celebration
    It's not surprising that Rayito was puzzled five years ago when she began feeling tired. She had just returned from a trip to Jerusalem, and decided to see her physician. Over the next several weeks, her physician detected a heart murmur that was getting worse. A cardiologist later diagnosed a bad aortic valve and told her she would need a valve replacement. More...

  • James Hemenway's Story: Denial and a Second Chance
    Hemenway's doctors originally attributed his breathing difficulties to asthma. But his lungs began filling with liquid and he couldn't breathe, so he went to a specialist in Boise. His diagnosis: cardiomyopathy, probably due to a past flu virus. More...


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