Medical Services: Centers Of Excellence

The Institute for Patient Blood Management and Bloodless Medicine and Surgery at Englewood Hospital

Techniques: About Albumin, Blood Salvage, About Erythropoietin, About Hemoglobin-Based Oxygen Carriers (HBOCs), About Normovolemic Hemodilution

About Albumin

Albumin is a protein made in the liver and distributed through the body by the circulatory system. It assists in maintaining enough volume inside the blood vessels. If because of trauma, surgery, or perhaps infection, a person goes into shock, his or her blood pressure can drop very quickly, and if not corrected, could cause death. Also, because of various medical conditions, an individual can have an imbalance in the normal protein levels in the body. In these cases, albumin can be given to maintain or increase blood pressure and blood volume or help manage an underlying medical condition.

Where does albumin come from? Human blood can be separated into two basic categories, cellular materials (45%) and plasma (55%). Plasma is 90% water; the remaining 10% consists of small amounts of various proteins, hormones, salts, vitamins, and enzymes. Albumin is one of the many proteins found in plasma. It is prepared for medical use by fractionating it from the plasma of healthy donors, and then heating it to inactivate any disease causing agents.

Would a person who refuses blood transfusions for religious reasons automatically also refuse the use of albumin? It depends on the individual. Some who would otherwise refuse blood transfusion therapy accept the medical use of blood fractions, such as albumin. They do not view such blood fractions as the same as a potentially life sustaining transfusion of whole blood, cells, or plasma. It is interesting to note that many protein fractions pass freely between a pregnant mother and her fetus, whereas their bloodstreams remain distinct and singular. Others feel that as it once circulated as a “part” of blood, it would be unacceptable.

Albumin, like many alternatives to blood transfusions, can be used effectively by physicians rendering non-blood medical management to any patient who desires it. It is therefore an individual's responsibility to gain knowledge about such choices, and thereafter make educated decisions that also maintain a clear conscience. Doing so enables health care professionals to give the best care possible to an informed patient.