BACKGROUND: Hemostasis during burn surgery is difficult to achieve, and high blood loss commonly occurs. Bleeding control measures are limited, and many patients require allogeneic blood transfusions. Cell salvage is a well-known method used to reduce transfusions. However, its evidence in burns is limited. Therefore, this study aimed to examine the feasibility of cell salvage during burn surgery.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: A prospective, observational study was conducted with 16 patients (20 measurements) scheduled for major burn surgery. Blood was recovered by washing saturated gauze pads with heparinized saline, which was then processed using the Cell Saver. Erythrocyte concentrate quality was analyzed by measuring hemoglobin, hematocrit, potassium, and free hemoglobin concentration. Microbial contamination was assessed based on cultures at every step of the process. Differences in blood samples were tested using the Student's t-test.
RESULTS: The red blood cell mass recovered was 29 ± 11% of the mass lost. Patients' preoperative hemoglobin and hematocrit levels were 10.5 ± 1.8 g/dL and 0.33 ± 0.05 L/L, respectively. The erythrocyte concentrate showed hemoglobin and hematocrit levels of 13.2 ± 3.9 g/dL and 0.40 ± 0.11 L/L thus showing a concentration effect. The potassium level was lower in the erythrocyte concentrate (2.5 ± 1.5 vs. 4.1 ± 0.4 mmol/L, p < 0.05). The free hemoglobin level was low (0.16 ± 0.21 μmol/L). All cultures of the erythrocyte concentrate showed bacterial growth compared to 21% of wound cultures.
CONCLUSION: Recovering erythrocytes during burn excisional surgery using cell salvage is possible. Despite strict sterile handling, erythrocyte concentrates of all patients showed bacterial contamination. The consequence of this contamination remains unclear and should be investigated in future studies.