What is bloodless kidney transplant surgery?

A bloodless kidney transplant does not use blood transfusions, which involve donated blood or blood components (such as plasma, platelets or red or white blood cells).

During a bloodless kidney transplant, our surgeons, anesthesiologists and hematologists use advanced techniques to minimize or avoid the need for a transfusion.

Most patients who choose to have a bloodless kidney transplant at the University of Chicago Medicine do not want to receive blood or blood products because of religious beliefs, including people who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Often, these individuals may not be considered for a kidney transplant at other hospitals.

If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses or have other reasons to avoid blood transfusions, we invite you to talk with our team about your options.

Request a Consultation

Is bloodless kidney transplant safe?

Bloodless surgeries have been found to be safe and effective for more than two decades. Doctors at UChicago Medicine have refined their techniques over time to offer the best possible options for kidney transplant patients.

However, not everyone may be a candidate for a transfusion-free kidney transplant. That is why we encourage you to meet with our team — even if you have been turned down for surgery at other hospitals — so you can understand your options.

Kidney Transplants without Blood Transfusions at UChicago Medicine

At the University of Chicago Medicine’s Bloodless Kidney Transplant Program, we use innovative techniques to make life-saving surgery available to people who may not be considered for kidney transplants elsewhere.

By offering bloodless (transfusion-free) kidney transplants for people who prefer not to receive blood transfusions because of religious beliefs, we respect our patients’ choices while still delivering exceptional care.

When you come to UChicago Medicine, our team will perform a thorough evaluation to understand your risks and take time to answer any questions you may have. We work with you to develop a personalized care plan that respects your personal and religious beliefs.

What techniques do you use to avoid blood transfusions during kidney transplant?

At UChicago Medicine, we use safe and effective techniques to reduce or eliminate the need for blood transfusions during a kidney transplant. These include:

Pre-surgery medication to prevent anemia: Before a bloodless kidney transplant, the patient receives an injection of a medication called Epogen that stimulates the production of red blood cells. This reduces the risk for anemia (lack of red blood cells) during and after surgery.

Cell saver machine: This technology captures blood lost during surgery, “cleans” it and then recycles the red blood cells back into the patient’s body through an intravenous line.

Hemostatic agents and devices: During a kidney transplant, the surgical team uses special topical agents and instruments to minimize bleeding and reduce blood loss during surgery.

Hemodilution: Although not often used during kidney transplants, hemodilution may be an option for some people. Before surgery, doctors remove concentrated blood from the body and replace it with fluid so there is less actual blood loss during surgery. After the operation, the concentrated blood is infused back into the patient’s body.

Living Donors and Bloodless Donor Surgery

Through our robust living donor kidney transplant program, patients can often receive transplants sooner because they do not have to wait for a kidney from a deceased donor. Living relatives are often the best match for kidney failure patients. If a family shares religious beliefs, we can offer bloodless surgery for both kidney recipients and kidney donors.

Our surgeons use the least invasive techniques for kidney donation, which reduces or eliminates the need for transfusions for most living donors. This allows people who prefer not to receive transfusions to donate a kidney to someone in need of a life-saving transplant.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bloodless Kidney Transplant

Yes, we have helped many Jehovah’s Witnesses receive kidney transplants using bloodless surgical techniques.

Prior to transplant, a donor kidney is washed to remove any blood from the donor. Using bloodless medicine techniques, we can also perform a kidney transplant without the use of blood transfusions for many people.

Our surgeons also use the least invasive technique currently available for kidney donation, which leads to a faster recovery and reduces or eliminates the need for transfusions for most living donors. This can help alleviate concerns about donation if a living donor is also one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and prefers to avoid blood products.

Bloodless surgery is performed without the need for a blood transfusion, which involves the replacement of blood or blood components from donors.

At UChicago Medicine, many surgeries — even complex procedures like kidney transplants and heart surgery — can often be performed without blood transfusions. This means that people who prefer not to get transfusions for religious or personal reasons may still be able to get the care they need.

In almost all cases, no transfusions are ever needed. Medication given before surgery as well as special techniques and technology used during surgery can make bloodless kidney transplants an option for many people who may have been told that they could not receive treatment elsewhere.

Patients who have bloodless surgery may have a higher risk for anemia (low red blood cells), which can be dangerous. That is why we use several techniques before, during and after surgery to reduce this risk.

When you come to UChicago Medicine, our team will talk about your risks based on your health and preferences and discuss ways to reduce these risks. Our aim is to develop a care plan that optimizes your chances for a successful surgery and respects your wishes. We take time to understand your preferences so that every member of our care team has a clear understanding of your treatment goals.

Request an Appointment

The information you provide will enable us to assist you as efficiently as possible. A representative will contact you within one to two business days to help you schedule an appointment.

You can also make an appointment with our providers by:

Scheduling a virtual video visit to see a provider from the comfort of your home

Requesting an online second opinion from our specialists 

To speak to someone directly, please call 1-888-824-0200. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.


* Required Field

Bloodless Kidney Transplant Surgery