Before you come into hospital
You will be seen by a nurse in the Pre-Operative Assessment Clinic, who will check what medication you are prescribed and tell you if and when you need to discontinue any of your drugs before surgery. In most cases you will continue on all the drugs usually prescribed by your GP.
You should bring all your usual medication into hospital with you, which will be locked away in a medicine locker beside your bed. It is better to store and bring them in their original containers rather than to decant them or bring in single strips. This is so that we can check your dosage instructions and positively identify them as belonging to you.
Whilst you are in hospital
The doctor will prescribe on your drug chart your usual medication and any further drugs that you might need whilst in hospital. These usually consist of anti-sickness, painkillers and blood thinning medication. The pharmacist also checks your drug chart.
Discharge from hospital
Before discharge, the pharmacist will dispense an interim box of analgesics and any other medication prescribed by the doctor on your drug chart. If you need to continue with the prescribed treatment you will need to order more from your GP, before you run out.
Why might you need a blood transfusion? Most people cope well with losing a moderate amount of blood (e.g. two to three pints from a total of around eight to ten pints). This lost fluid can be replaced with a salt solution. Over the next few weeks your body will make new red blood cells to replace those lost. Medicines such as iron can also help compensate for blood loss. However, if larger amounts are lost, a blood transfusion is the best way of replacing the blood rapidly.
What might I do to reduce my need for blood before an operation?
- Eat a well-balanced diet in the weeks before your operation.
- Boost your iron levels – ask your GP or Consultant for advice, especially if you know that you have suffered from low iron levels in the past.
- If you are on Warfarin or Aspirin, stopping these drugs may reduce the amount of bleeding. You will be advised if you should stop these before your operation.
Are transfusions safe?
Almost always, yes. The main risk from a transfusion is being given blood of the wrong blood group. A smaller risk is catching an infection. To ensure you receive the right blood, the clinical staff make careful identification checks before any transfusion. They will ask you to state your full name and date of birth. They will then check the details on your wristband to ensure that you receive the right blood. They will regularly monitor you during your transfusion and ask how you feel.
Donated blood will be specially selected to match your own blood for the most important blood groups. But, because your red blood cells carry over 100 different blood groups, an exact match is not possible. About one in every 15-20 patients develops an antibody to the donated blood, and will need to have specially matched blood. If you have a card saying that you need to have special blood, please show it to your nurse. Fortunately, severe reactions to blood transfusions are extremely rare. But when they do occur, staff are trained to recognise and deal with them.
Please inform the orthopaedic team if your religion/belief system has an objection to you receiving blood products.
If you are interested in finding out more about blood transfusions and have access to the internet, you might find the following website useful:
National Blood Services – www.blood.co.uk