Bloodless Craniosynostosis Surgery

Bloodless surgery is a somewhat misleading term. It suggests that a surgeon can do an operation without losing any blood. However, what bloodless craniosynostosis surgery actually refers to is a surgeon’s ability to perform this operation without giving their patient anyone else’s blood. Receiving another person’s blood is called an “allogeneic” blood transfusion. At The Craniofacial Center it is our goal to perform each operation without using allogeneic blood for a number of different reasons. Most parents are concerned about the small risk of their child contracting a serious viral infection after getting someone else’s blood. Today, thanks to more rigorous testing of donated blood, these risks are extremely low. Of course, this risk disappears altogether when allogeneic blood transfusions are not given. Another reason to avoid transfusions is that a number of studies have shown that getting someone else’s blood can stress the immune system in such a way that infections are more likely to occur after surgery. Other studies have shown that transfused red blood cells are not as flexible as a person’s own red blood cells, and we worry that this may impact the movement of these cells through the body’s smallest blood vessels. For these and other reasons we have developed and tested a number of different strategies to minimize the need for children to receive other people’s blood during craniofacial operations. As a result, we believe that we have the lowest published transfusion rates for craniofacial procedures. Taking care of a child with craniosynostosis requires making multiple medical decisions over the course of treatment, and for each decision it is important to balance the risks of doing something with the risks of not doing it. While it is our goal to never give allogeneic blood transfusions, we also realize that the very highest priority must be to take the safest course for each child. Sometimes, this might mean giving a child someone else’s blood to keep their blood levels from falling to critically low levels. For families following the Jehovah’s Witness faith, additional steps can be taken to avoid allogeneic transfusions based on discussions with families during their consultations.

For a further discussion on this topic you can email, write or call Dr. Fearon:

Jeffrey A. Fearon, MD
The Craniofacial Center
7777 Forest Lane, Suite C-700