Despite the growing medical and public interest in reducing exposure to allogeneic blood, little is known about the use of alternatives to allogeneic transfusion. This study was conducted to determine the availability of these technologies in Canadian hospitals and was undertaken under the auspices of the International Study of Peri-Operative Transfusion (ISPOT), a 10-country study of the effectiveness of, attitudes toward, and practices related to the use of alternatives to allogeneic transfusion.
A cross-sectional national mail survey of Canadian hospitals with greater than 50 medical/surgical beds. Chiefs of anesthesia, surgery, and the divisions of cardiac, orthopedic, vascular, and urology were initially mailed a brief postcard asking which of seven technologies were used in their center. This was then followed up with a one-page questionnaire asking how frequently the technologies were used, their thoughts on the appropriateness of the use of the technologies, barriers to their greater use, and reasons for nonuse of the technologies.
Response rates to the postcard survey ranged from 70%-98%, depending on the technology and type of surgery, and ranged from 27%-53% for the follow-up questionnaire. All technologies were used most frequently in cardiac surgery. Aprotinin, tranexamic acid, aminocaproic acid, desmopressin, and cell salvage were reported used in over 70% of cardiac surgery centers. Of these, tranexamic acid and cell salvage were the only ones used routinely in some centers. Acute normovolemic hemodilution and erythropoietin were used in 45% and 20% of cardiac centers, respectively. The drugs were used in less than 15% of orthopedic, vascular, and urologic divisions, with the exception of desmopressin in urologic and vascular surgery and aminocaproic acid in urologic surgery. The techniques of cell salvage and acute normovolemic hemodilution were used in 30%-45% of these divisions, with the exception of cell salvage, which was used in less than 15% of urology units. In more than 60% of cases, the technologies were considered to be used "about right," although an important minority felt that they were underused.
In general, alternatives to perioperative allogeneic transfusion were rarely used except in cardiac surgery.