The application of blood conservation strategies to minimise or avoid allogeneic blood transfusion is seen internationally as a desirable objective. Bloodless surgery is a relatively new practice that facilitates that goal. However, the concept is either poorly understood or evokes negative connotations. Bloodless surgery is a term that has evolved in the medical literature to refer to a peri-operative team approach to avoid allogeneic transfusion and improve patient outcomes. Starting as an advocacy in the early 1960s, it has now grown into a serious practice being embraced by internationally respected clinicians and institutions. Central to its success is a coordinated multidisciplinary approach. It encompasses the peri-operative period with surgeons, anaesthetists, haematologists, intensivists, pathologists, transfusion specialists, pharmacists, technicians, and operating room and ward nurses utilising combinations of the numerous blood conservation techniques and transfusion alternatives now available. A comprehensive monograph on the subject of bloodless surgery along with detailed coverage of risks and benefits of each modality (some modalities are discussed in more detail elsewhere in this issue) is beyond the scope of this article. Accordingly, a brief overview of the history, theory and practice of bloodless surgery is presented, along with the clinical and institutional management requirements.
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