Blood and Treasure: Cheap Drug Saves Both

Blood and Treasure: Cheap Drug Saves Both

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A hospital in Canada has been using a cheap drug to reduce the number of red blood cell transfusions its surgery patients need, and research shows it has been a big success. Orthopedic surgery patients are often at risk for high blood loss during procedures, and oftentimes need transfusions to make up the loss. The excellent results at the Canadian Hospital, St. Michael’s, means more hospitals will likely adopt the practice soon.

The cheap drug in question is called tranexamic acid, known as TXA, and prevents excessive blood loss during surgeries. It has a track record of effectively treating orthopedic, trauma, and cardiac patients. There was a shortage of the cheap drug for a time in 2013, but after it became widely available again, anesthesiologists started giving TXA to every eligible patient undergoing hip or knee replacement surgery. In total, 402 patients received the drug. Dr. Greg Hare is an anesthesiologist at St. Michaels and he explained, “We wanted to optimize TXA’s use in patients undergoing hip or knee replacements because these procedures often result in high blood loss and frequently require transfusions. The drug costs about $10 per patient, while the average cost of transfusing one unit of blood is $1,200.”

The mandatory use of TXA for eligible patients undergoing hip or knee replacement surgery at the hospital reduced its transfusion rate from 8.8 percent to 5.2 percent—a more than 40 percent reduction. Even more important, patients who received TXA did not have increased adverse effects, like heart attack, stroke, or blood clots. The hospital reports no different in mortality rates or increased length of hospital stays. Dr. Hare says, “Other hospitals and surgical centers should consider making TXA mandatory for similar surgeries because it can improve quality of care, decrease the need for blood transfusions and even save money. Making TXA mandatory for eligible patients has made care more efficient, ensuring the best possible care for our patients.”

Our team at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey is also committed to ensuring the best possible care for our patients. If you’re considering any sort of orthopedic surgery—or you’ve already undergone the procedure and are in the process of recovering—call your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey to discuss any concerns or questions you have on your road to recovery. We can find you the answers, and help, you need for your healthiest and happiest life.