Are Your Nurses Prepared to Manage Your Autotransfusion?

Autotransfusion is safer and more efficient than traditional donor transfusions, eliminating intermediate processes and costs while reducing the risk of complications. But cleaning and returning a patient’s blood to their body is a multi-step process with indications and contraindications, so it’s important for nurses and critical care specialists to understand what’s involved. 

Additionally, trauma is a common reason for blood loss, and every trauma patient should be considered for autotransfusion, especially since a rapid response is required for the best outcomes. This makes it even more necessary for nurses to know how, why, and when this procedure should be administered.

Autotransfusion  should be considered for the following conditions:

  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Hemothorax
  • Vaginal postpartum hemorrhage
  • Major organ trauma 
  • Blood from the peritoneal cavity
  • Ruptured uterus
  • Maternal hemorrhage
  • Thyroid surgery
  • Organ transplants
  • Trauma with heavy blood loss
  • Vascular procedures
  • Total joint replacement
  • Multilevel spine procedures

Nurses and critical care staff should also be able to recognize when autotransfusion is not the right course of action. They should know that the following are contraindications for the procedure:

  • Septicemia
  • Renal or hepatic insufficiency
  • Coagulopathies
  • Blood that has been in the collection system for longer than institutional standards allow

Additionally, if there’s evidence of coagulopathy or evidence of DIC, specific blood component therapy is necessary instead of autotransfusion.

Autotransfusion can be thwarted by simple mistakes. This includes incorrect system assembly, contamination, medication with contraindications, or incorrect disposable usage. In order for nurses to be able to manage autotransfusion for patients, whether in trauma situations or routine surgeries, they need to be set up for success so they can improve patient outcomes. 

They need the following:

  • The ability to assess the patient, which involves a clear understanding of when autotransfusion can be effective (or should not be performed)
  • Training on how to prepare sterile equipment quickly
  • Knowledge of autotransfusion procedures and techniques
  • The ability to practice techniques and/or support autotransfusion specialists
  • Training on how to monitor patient symptoms after an autotransfusion

In other words, nurses should have prerequisite knowledge, patient assessment capability, procedural knowledge, and monitoring ability in order to manage autotransfusion. In addition to having point of use knowledge, each facility must have policies and procedures, a quality monitoring program and up to date regulatory knowledge, in order to safely and effectively manage an Autotransfusion program. 

Because autotransfusion is less expensive and safer than donor transfusion, the demand for autotransfusion devices is expected to grow by over $100 million within the next seven years. Donated blood is a burden on the patient’s immune system, but cleaning and reinfusing their own blood significantly reduces the risk of disease, complications, and readmission. Without the need for recruiting donors, cross-matching, and pre-screening, autotransfusion can be effective for surgeries and trauma situations. 

Understanding autotransfusion is key for nurses because they are often involved in critical response, support the OR, and monitor patients after procedures. 

Help with Autotransfusion

If your hospital is looking for autotransfusion support, SpecialtyCare can help. We can provide trained autotransfusion specialists to ensure patient safety and help your staff get up to speed on what autotransfusion requires. As the demand for this procedure continues to grow, we can help you stay on the cutting edge and continue to provide excellent patient care. Contact us today to learn more.