Jehovah’s Witnesses Instrumental in Heart Surgery Advance
THE New York Daily News of August 27, 1995, headlined their report, “The Bloodless Operation.” It stated that the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center was “to reveal a revolutionary way to perform coronary bypass surgery—the same surgery recently required by ex-Mayor David Dinkins—without losing so much as a drop of blood.”
“Inspired by the concerns of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” the paper said, “the wonder of the new procedure . . . will be reflected in hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for hospitals and substantially less risk of blood contamination for patients.” Dr. Todd Rosengart, director of the hospital’s bloodless surgery program, said: “We are now able to reduce the amount of blood transfusion necessary during this surgery from the usual two to four units per patient to zero.”
Dr. Karl Krieger, a cardiac surgeon of the hospital, who helped pioneer the procedure, said: “By eliminating the need for donor blood and blood products, we also reduce the risk of certain postoperative fevers and infections normally associated with transfusions.”
Other experts say that “the bloodless bypass decreases time spent in intensive care after surgery—from 24 hours or more to just six hours. Patients in clinical trials were able to get back on their feet and out of the hospital up to 48 hours sooner.” That means big savings for hospitals, government, and insurance companies. Dr. Rosengart estimated that “this surgery can save at least $1,600 per patient.”
The Daily News account continued:
“Ironically, the new surgery was instigated not by economic or even medical urgency, but by religious fervor. The Jehovah’s Witnesses community—whose beliefs forbid the use of transfusions—was seeking help for elder members succumbing to heart disease. . . .
“At the urging of the Jehovah’s Witnesses community, the doctors combined their blood salvaging techniques with the new drugs. They also found a new way of utilizing the traditional heart and lung machine used to keep patients alive during cardiac surgery.
“In addition to the 40 Jehovah’s Witnesses patients comprising the initial clinical study, six months ago the New York-Cornell team introduced the operation into the general patient community. ‘Since then, they have completed 100 consecutive bloodless bypass surgeries with no deaths,’ said Krieger. The mortality rate for normal bypass surgery is about 2.3%.”
Worldwide 102 hospitals have added bloodless surgery programs to their facilities, making these safer surgical procedures available to the general patient community earth wide.