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The clinical suitability of intraoperative autotransfusion was evaluated in 25 patients undergoing orthotopic liver transplantation using a Cell Saver #4 (Haemonetics) with acid-citrate-dextrose anticoagulation. In the first 14 patients (phase 1), biochemical, hematologic, coagulation, and semiquantitative bacteriologic studies were performed from the collected blood, processed blood, and patients' blood before and after 500 mL of autotransfusion. The acid-citrate-dextrose solution produced adequate anticoagulation, and the system effectively removed most of the potassium, red blood cell fragments, plasma free hemoglobin, bilirubin, coagulation factors, platelets, and fibrin degradation products. Autotransfusion (500 mL) did not alter coagulation, electrolyte balance, and hematologic findings in recipients except for a clinically insignificant increase in plasma free hemoglobin. Seventeen of 56 samples of the collected blood or processed blood were positive for coagulase (-) Staphylococcus (occasional or rare), but blood cultures before and after autotransfusion were negative in all patients. In the next 11 patients (phase 2), a quantitative bacteriologic study was performed from the collected blood, processed blood, skin, bile duct stump, peritoneal cavity, and room air using a mock reservoir. The processed blood was not transfused. All blood cultures from the patients were sterile. However, coagulase (-) Staphylococcus or Bacillus sp was seen in two cultures from skin, three from the processed blood, and three from air, suggesting that room air and skin were the sources of contamination. When the patients of the two phases of study were compared, postoperative blood cultures were all sterile, and renal function was similar. Therefore, autotransfusion appears to be clinically acceptable during liver transplantation. Occasional contamination by few bacteria appears to be insignificant in patients who receive prophylactic antibiotic therapy.