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Bacteriologic and endotoxin analysis of salvaged blood used in autologous transfusions during cardiac operations


Autologous blood transfusion is a common method of reducing the need for heterologous blood transfusion during cardiac operations. Recently we investigated an outbreak of severe, nonsurgical postoperative bleeding among patients undergoing heart operations and receiving intraoperative transfusion of blood from a cell conservation device (Cell Saver System, Haemonetics Corp., Braintree, Mass.). As a result of this investigation, we conducted a prospective study to determine if bacterial or endotoxin contamination of the blood collected in the Cell Saver System and used for reinfusion during heart operations contributes to postoperative bleeding complications. Patients’ blood samples were collected immediately before operation, at the end of cardiopulmonary bypass, 1 hour postoperatively, and from the Cell Saver System. All blood samples were cultured for bacteria, and all plasma samples were assayed for endotoxin. Preoperatively all patients having heart operations were without signs of infection, 33 of 37 blood cultures taken were negative, and none of the plasma samples had detectable endotoxin. After discontinuance of cardiopulmonary bypass but before delivery of blood from the Cell Saver System, bacteria and endotoxin were detected in 11 of 36 (30.6%) and five of 35 (14.3%) of the patients’ blood samples, respectively. The blood aspirated from the open chest and collected by the Cell Saver System was culture positive in 30 of 31 (96.8%) samples, and seven of 29 (24.1%) contained endotoxin. One of 28 blood samples collected 1 hour postoperatively was culture positive, and five of 25 samples contained endotoxin. Of 61 total microorganisms isolated, 50 (82%) were coagulase-negative staphylococci, four (6.6%) aerobic diphtheroids, five (8.2%) anaerobic “diphtheroids” (Propionibacterium acnes), and two (3.2%) gram-negative bacilli. Plasma endotoxin concentrations ranged from 10 to 765 pg/ml. No signs of endotoxemia or unusual bleeding were observed intraoperatively or postoperatively in any of the 38 patients. Although blood collected in the Cell Saver System and used for reinfusion during heart operations often was contaminated with gram-positive bacterial commensals of the skin and low concentrations of endotoxin, no adverse effects were noted in the patients.

Bland LA, Villarino ME, Arduino MJ, McAllister SK, Gordon SM, Uyeda CT, Valdon C, Potts D, Jarvis WR, Favero MS

J. Thorac. Cardiovasc. Surg. 1992 Mar;103(3):582-8

PMID: 1545559