Patients with sickle cell disease at times may require surgical removal of their spleen (splenectomy) as part of the treatment for this condition.
Operating on these patients whose blood counts are already in a much lower state than usual can pose significant threat to life and well-being. Surgeons at The University of the West Indies (UWI) operating at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) have shown that their approach of giving blood transfusions to carefully selected patients undergoing this surgical procedure, has achieved excellent outcomes.
In a November 2020 publication in the International Journal, Tropical Doctor, Chief Paediatric Surgeon, Professor Newton Duncan and his team, showed that of 150 such surgeries done, over the past two decades, only 33 patients required blood transfusion. The Blood Transfusion Protocol developed by the UWI/UHWI team is being recommended to surgeons worldwide who undertake splenectomies, especially in settings where blood bank reserves are unpredictable or perennially low.
The team showed that their protocol resulted in short operating time, short average hospital stay, no mortality and low morbidity which is excellent news for Jamaican sickle cell patients.
Duncan noted that “going forward, the overall patients’ experience may be improved with the use of a laparoscopic approach to splenectomy in selected cases”.
Professor Joseph Plummer, head of the Department of Surgery, revealed that his department has in fact been stepping up efforts to expand laparoscopic surgery for patients at the University Hospital and was investing in the training and acquisition of this less invasive surgical approach.
Plummer notes that “this study highlights the high quality of care being delivered by the Peadiatric Surgery Division” which he said “is possible because of the foundation laid at The UWI by pioneer researchers in sickle cell disease Professor Graham Serjeant, Professor John Homi, Professor Reginald Carpenter and Dr. S Venugopal”.