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South African Journal of Surgery

On-line version ISSN 2078-5151
Print version ISSN 0038-2361


ALLORTO, N L; SMITH, M D T  and  CLARKE, D L. Liberal transfusion strategies still the trend in burn surgery. S. Afr. j. surg. [online]. 2016, vol.54, n.3, pp.35-42. ISSN 2078-5151.

OBJECTIVE: Blood is a limited resource in middle-income countries such as South Africa. Transfusion is associated with complications and expense. We aimed to understand our transfusion practices in burn surgery as well as ascertain the opinion of a broader group of surgeons and anaesthetists regarding transfusion triggers in order to understand the rationale and bias that drives current transfusion practice in our setting. METHODS: Firstly, we investigated the current blood practices at our regional burn service through an audit of perioperative notes for all patients receiving packed cell transfusions in a 24-month period. Secondly, we formulated a questionnaire asking for opinion on acceptable preoperative and postoperative haemoglobin targets for a list of elective, emergency and burn operations that was distributed at a number of meetings. RESULTS: Seventy-two patients received a total of 103 perioperative transfusions. The median preoperative haemoglobin was 9.8 g/dL in both children and adults and the median postoperative haemoglobin was 10.1 and 9.1 g/dL in children and adults respectively. The cohort was divided into two groups: the first surgery and the subsequent surgeries. In the adult group the mean time to first surgery post burn was 11.5 days with a median volume of 0.73 mls/kg/% operated surface area (range 0.16-1.54) of packed cells transfused per operation. In the paediatric group the mean time to first surgery post burn was 9 days (range 2-54) with a median volume of 1.1 mls/kg/% operated surface area (range 0.56-2.14) of packed cells transfused per operation. CONCLUSION: One hundred and fifty questionnaires were handed out and 103 (69%) were completed. The average proposed preoperative and postoperative haemoglobin was 9.3 g/dL and 8.4g/dL respectively. The majority of respondents (60% in elective surgery, 43% in emergency surgery and 60% in burn surgery) would like preoperative haemoglobin to be 10 g/dL and above. : Research suggests that a restrictive blood transfusion approach is being increasingly implemented as best practice. However, our surgical community does not seem to accept a restrictive strategy as part of blood management principles. A shift in this practice could result in clinical benefit by reducing complications and increasing cost saving in our resource constrained setting. We plan to protocolise earlier surgery and blood conservation strategies intraoperatively in addition to a restrictive strategy in our burn service.

Keywords : Restrictive transfusion strategies; Burn surgery; Liberal transfusion practices.

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