about ABT

patient information

Karen Madgwick, Hospital Transfusion Specialist, from North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust, explains in more detail what happens to patients during Autologous Blood Transfusion.

Orthopaedic patient, Paul Grieves, also tells of his experience:

-Karen's guide to the medical facts
Appropriately used donor blood and blood products save lives and provide clinical benefit to many patients. However, blood is in short supply

-Karen's view of a patient's experience
What happens prior to the operation?
Is there anything I could do to prepare?
How long does the procedure take? ...more

-Case Study: Paul Grieves

Paul Grieves from Harlow, Essex had his own blood back following on from a bi-lateral knee replacement operation at the town’s Rivers Hospital ...more



What happens to me and my blood during Post-Operative salvage?

What happens prior to the operation? Is there anything I could do to prepare?
Prior to surgery, a range of blood samples may be taken from you to check your overall health. We do recommend that you try to maintain a well-balanced diet as this maximises the amount of red blood cells that the body makes and can reduce the need for using blood during an operation.

When and how does the blood get collected? Will I feel anything?
If blood is going to be collected post-operatively, the procedure occurs at the end of the operation whilst you are still in the operating theatre under anaesthetic, so nothing will be felt. One or two drains are inserted into the middle of the wound to allow the blood to be collected for filtration. A needle (cannula) will be inserted into to your arm if the blood is to be re-infused but this is not too painful (similar to having a blood sample taken) and this may also be performed while you are asleep in theatre.

Will anything happen to me once I am conscious?
For the purpose of the blood transfusion it is not usually necessary to insert any additional needles or drains once you are conscious. The equipment will remain intact until the surgical team are happy with the surgical site and say that the wound drains should be removed (usually about 24 to 48 hours).

How long does the procedure take and how much fluid gets collected?
Post-operative salvage tends to take 6-12 hours in the majority of cases. Knee replacement operations usually use a tourniquet during the procedure which means that most blood is lost after the operation is complete and the tourniquet has been removed, although this varies from patient to patient. Blood is collected into the ‘salvage’ device, and then filtered into a bag for re-infusion. This all occurs whilst you are attached to the device. Once the procedure is completed, the device is removed and discarded.

Is there anything I need to know about post-operative care?
After the operation and whilst you are still in hospital, the physiotherapist will visit you to discuss mobility. It is important that there is no risk of blood clots developing and this will be discussed with each patient individually.

We do suggest you continue to follow a balanced diet post-operatively in particular to ensure that you have a good intake of iron, B12 and folate to help the production of red cells.