Intraoperative cell salvaged blood as part of a blood conservation strategy in Caesarean section: is fetal red cell contamination important?†

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Cell salvage is used in obstetric surgery as part of a blood conservation strategy in our Trust. This carries a theoretical risk of amniotic fluid embolism and also a risk of fetal red cells being present in the re-infusion, resulting in alloimmunization. In this study, we attempted to quantify the risk of antibody formation from re-infusion of autologous blood after Caesarean section.


Women presenting for elective Caesarean section were routinely requested to consent for collection of blood by cell salvage, using one suction device. If an adequate volume of blood was collected, it was processed and, if clinically appropriate, re-infused via a leucodepletion filter. Women who received a re-infusion were followed up to test for antibody formation.


Seventy women consented for re-infusion and follow-up. The median volume re-infused was 324 ml (range 118–1690 ml). The median fetal red cell contamination was 0.8 ml (range 0.2–12.9 ml). All re-infusions were given without adverse clinical signs. No antibodies were detected in 48 follow-up samples. One positive anti-S antibody was detected.


The implementation of a blood conservation strategy which includes the use of intraoperative cell salvage appears safe and can contribute to a reduction in the number of blood transfusions to the obstetric population. We remain uncertain of the significance of fetal red cell contamination.

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