Cold Antibodies in Cardiovascular Surgery:  Is Preoperative Screening Necessary?

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Objectives: Cold antibodies (CAs) are rarely significant for transfusion, but they can cause complications under the hypothermic conditions of cardiovascular surgery. The purpose of this study was to determine the incidence of such complications.

Methods: Patients with CAs who underwent cardiovascular surgery were identified, and their records were reviewed for intraoperative complications attributable to CAs.

Results: Over 14.5 years, of the 47,373 patients who underwent cardiovascular surgery, 99 had CAs before or within 30 days after surgery. Ninety-seven patients had hypothermic surgery, and intraoperative agglutination was noted in four; two of these cases were never reported to the transfusion service.

Conclusions: The incidence of intraoperative complications among our patients with CAs was only 4%; therefore, the use of special testing protocols for the preoperative identification of CAs is neither necessary nor justified. Patient risk is best managed by preoperative clinical evaluation for potentially pathogenic CAs and intraoperative vigilance for agglutination.

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