Case Study: Transfusion-Free Cardiothoracic Surgery

The USC cardiothoracic surgery team has been among the leaders in many aspects of cardiovascular disease treatment for more than 10 years. These surgeons, along with their clinical, research and administrative staffs, offer comprehensive, advanced therapy for many diseases of the chest including adult cardiac surgery, minimally invasive cardiac surgery, endoscopic vein harvest, adult thoracic surgery, video-assisted thoracic surgery, pediatric cardiac and thoracic surgery, and heart and lung transplantation.

As challenging as these sound, our cardiothoracic surgeons have done what many consider complex heart surgery, transfusion-free.

Since Vaughn A. Starnes, M.D., professor and chair of the department of cardiothoracic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, joined USC University Hospital in 1992, the clinical programs in cardiac surgery, thoracic surgery and transplantation surgery have exploded. Nowhere is this more dramatically illustrated than the transplantation program, which includes adult and pediatric heart, lung, and heart-lung procedures—including pioneering donor-lobar lung transplants.

Transfusion-Free Expertise

A focus for Dr. Starnes is transfusion-free medicine. He first gained experience in transfusion-free techniques during his training at Stanford University. In the past few years, he has helped make bloodless surgery a “real emphasis” at USC University Hospital.

Interestingly, Dr. Starnes’ commitment to transfusion-free medicine carries over to all of his patients, and he and his team try to do as many of their surgeries as possible without the use of blood products. “There is no need to expose patients to potential infection or inflammatory reactions that may be associated with transfusions,” says Dr. Starnes. “While there is no doubt that transfusion-free medicine is more challenging, it may be also better medicine for the patient.”


Patient Stories

Robert Teele Story

In February 1997, a flu epidemic hit Fairbanks, Alaska. Robert K. Teele IV, now 32, remembers being “really sick” that winter, with a high temperature and aches and pains. Ultimately, Teele’s flu caused more havoc than a sore throat, runny nose and fever. Unbeknownst to Teele, the flu virus had attacked his heart—resulting in a condition called cardiomyopathy. In this serious disease, the heart becomes inflamed, the heart muscle weakens, and the heart cannot pump blood efficiently. Click for more…

Rayito Barajas Story

Rayito S. Barajas of Baldwin Park, Calif., is 77 but has the spirit and energy of a 20 year-old. On January 7, 2001, she marked her 61st wedding anniversary with her 90-year-old husband. She raised six children, and has six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Rayito makes wedding cakes for a living, and in her spare time she paints portraits and landscapes and travels. Click for more…

James Hemenway Story
Denial almost cost James L. Hemenway his life. He had been leading a fulfilling, albeit routine, healthy existence. He had lived in Idaho his entire life, settling in a town called Payetta. There, he insulated houses, drove a school bus and with his wife, MaryEtta, raised three boys. Life was good. Click for more…

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    For emergencies & physicians, please page us on the Transfusion-free service pager, 877-236-1324

    Office/General Information line:
    Phone: (323) 442-5261

    Randy Henderson, Program Director
    Phone: (323) 442-5263
    Fax: (323) 442-4855

    Alexander Perez, Program Coordinator
    Phone: 323-442-0120
    Fax: (323) 442-4855

    Office address:
    1500 San Pablo Street
    Los Angeles CA 90033