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BACKGROUND: Reducing operative blood loss improves patient outcomes and reduces healthcare costs. The aim of this article was to review current surgical, anaesthetic and haemostatic intraoperative blood conservation strategies. METHODS: This narrative review was based on a literature search of relevant databases up to 31 July 2019 for publications relevant to reducing blood loss in the surgical patient. RESULTS: Interventions can begin early in the preoperative phase through identification of patients at high risk of bleeding. Directly acting anticoagulants can be stopped 48 h before most surgery in the presence of normal renal function. Aspirin can be continued for most procedures. Intraoperative cell salvage is recommended when anticipated blood loss is greater than 500 ml and this can be continued after surgery in certain situations. Tranexamic acid is safe, cheap and effective, and routine administration is recommended when anticipated blood loss is high. However, the optimal dose, timing and route of administration remain unclear. The use of topical agents, tourniquet and drains remains at the discretion of the surgeon. Anaesthetic techniques include correct patient positioning, avoidance of hypothermia and regional anaesthesia. Permissive hypotension may be beneficial in selected patients. Promising haemostatic strategies include use of pharmacological agents such as desmopressin, prothrombin complex concentrate and fibrinogen concentrate, and use of viscoelastic haemostatic assays. CONCLUSION: Reducing perioperative blood loss requires a multimodal and multidisciplinary approach. Although high-quality evidence exists in certain areas, the overall evidence base for reducing intraoperative blood loss remains limited.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Surg

Publication Date





e26 - e38