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Nigeria and allure of bloodless surgery

By Paul Adunwoke
18 September 2022   |   2:32 am
The World Health Organisation (WHO), recently directed health institutions to embrace bloodless medicine and surgery for better healthcare, effective patient management and to boost outcomes.

Bloodless Surgery

The World Health Organisation (WHO), recently directed health institutions to embrace bloodless medicine and surgery for better healthcare, effective patient management and to boost outcomes.

Although not entirely new, the practice discourages the transfusion of full blood or blood components to an injured person or patient during surgery.

With this recent call, some medical practitioners say that the WHO is responding to the demand of religious groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who see full blood transfusion as a practice that is against their religious doctrine.

Others say religion has nothing to do with the call; rather the scarcity of blood or some blood group in the blood bank in some hospitals has necessitated it.

However, health experts in the country have described the practice as a welcome development, noting that despite the twin problem of brain drain and the dearth of infrastructure facing the Nigerian health sector, its personnel can still carry out the practice within the country.

According to Prof. Sunday Chinenye, consultant physician/endocrinologist at the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), Rivers State, who spoke recently in Lagos at the Nigeria Diabetes Summit, for the practice to be effective, some techniques must be observed.

The endocrinologist disclosed that the first thing is to make sure that the patient has lost some blood and is actually in need of it and also, that the practitioner has to maintain an oxygen flow that will keep the vital organs working. He also disclosed that the practitioner must make sure that the patient has enough red blood cells that would work on the infused plasma when infused.

Chinenye revealed that patients who undergo bloodless medicine and surgery recover faster, have shorter hospital stays and experience fewer infectious diseases than those who have full blood transfusions.

The physician disclosed that bloodless surgery patients have fewer heart attacks and strokes after surgery.

According to him, bloodless patients do just as well and in many cases, better than patients who receive full blood transfusions.

“If you are considering a bloodless approach, it is very important to find experienced medical practitioners and discuss with them in detail.

“You may want to ask them how long they have been doing bloodless medicine and surgery or how many patients they have treated and their specific strategies. If you are not satisfied or comfortable with their answers, seek help elsewhere,” he said.

National Vice President, Society of Family Physicians of Nigeria (SOFPON), Dr. Blessing Chukwukelu, said most physicians do not believe in bloodless surgery and medicine, rather they have a way of infusing blood transfusion. She noted that physicians do this by giving their patients the right food to build their blood before surgery.

“I will advise people to live a healthy lifestyle that will help them to have the right quantity and quality of blood in their systems. I will only call for infusion on emergency grounds,” she said.

National President, Healthcare Providers Association of Nigeria (HCPAN), Dr. Adeyeye Jimmy Arigbabuwo, said the practice is an evolution and that Nigeria is gradually getting there in terms of having the necessary equipment and expertise.

According to him, it is a process where practitioners can use life support machines for their patients, instead of undergoing the blood transfusion process.

He stated that Nigeria has human and material resources to carry out the practice, adding that practitioners need the willpower, perseverance and determination to do it.

“In terms of technology, Nigeria can engage people in the Diaspora because Nigeria has the best medical doctors and health workers in the world. Equipment may not be there for now, but gradually we can improve on our healthcare system,” he said.

President of the Non-communicable Disease Alliance of Nigeria, Dr. Sunny Folorunsho Kuku observed that the practice encourages medical doctors and other health workers to build up patients’ blood before surgery.

According to him, there are blood products that can help the patient to build his/her blood, instead of transfusion, saying that patients should only be infused in emergency cases such as accident victims that have lost much blood and need to be helped to stay alive.

For sceptics, Dr Kuku said: “It is not a matter of equipment, but the political will to put things to practice.”