We compared the outcomes of bloodless emergency laparotomies for uterine rupture in twenty Jehovah’s Witness (JW) women who were in a state of haemorrhagic shock with 45 other women who received blood transfusion.
The case records of twenty Jehovah’s Witness patients, who underwent bloodless emergency laparotomies for ruptured uterus complicated by haemorrhagic shock between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2006 were reviewed. We also reviewed the case records of 45 other patients who underwent similar surgical procedures for similar indications and in whom blood was transfused. The outcome variables compared were maternal deaths, infectious morbidity, acute respiratory distress syndrome, disseminated intravascular coagulation, length of post laparotomy ventilatory support, and length of postpartum hospitalization.
Demographic and obstetric characteristics were similar in both groups. Seventeen out of the twenty Jehovah’s Witness patients who refused blood transfusion survived the laparotomies and were discharged home in good condition. Three died of peritonitis. Six out of the 45 patients who received blood transfusion also died of peritonitis and one died of disseminated intravascular coagulopathy. The average duration of post partum hospitalization was 8 days in the group of patients transfused and 7 days in the group not transfused. Disseminated intravascular coagulation occurred post partum in two of the patients transfused. No case of acute respiratory distress syndrome or amniotic fluid embolism was identified in either group.
Patients who are in haemorrhagic shock from ruptured uterus and refuse blood transfusion can still be salvaged in a low resource setting. The study adds evidence that major operative procedures can be carried out on Jehovah’s Witness patients without blood transfusions or blood products.