A Congolese woman belonging to Jehovah’s Witness faith, which prohibits blood transfusions, needed open heart surgery. 39-year-old Bibiche Tshibola Makolo suffered from restrictive cardiomyopathy and required surgery to fix the heart valves.
Thus, began her search for possibilities to tend to her condition. It ended with doctors at Fortis Hospital in Bengaluru deciding to perform a “bloodless” open heart surgery on her, according to media reports.
In a regular open heart surgery, about 6-8 units of blood are required. However, that wasn’t the case with Bibiche’s surgery. Instead, it was carried out using blood conservation techniques practiced in such cases, were doctors have to avoid damage to blood components.
Dr Murali Chakravarthy, Director, Department of Anaesthesia at the hospital, was quoted by The News Minute as saying:
We’ve done bloodless surgeries several times before and are familiar with the process. Many patients of this faith come to us and require us to take them up for bloodless surgeries.
He further explained that people from this faith often seek out doctors who can perform bloodless surgeries for them and that’s how the Congolese woman came to them.
Bloodless surgery does not mean a procedure in which blood is not involved. In such a case, it refers to one in which a patient is not given any blood transfusion prior to or during the surgery.
Dr Vivek Jawali, Chief Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeon, Chairman, Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, Fortis Hospitals, recalls that the first bloodless surgery he performed on a member of the Jehovah’s Witness community was in 1985 while working at a different hospital.
Back in 1985, the technology was raw and it was much more difficult. However, if a surgeon plans on blood management prior to surgery, it can be done, despite risks.