Humanitarian Award for Frankfurt-based physician

February 15, 2016

The Patient Safety Movement Foundation has set itself the objective of noticeably reducing the number of preventable patient deaths in hospitals worldwide by 2020. That is why each year at the World Patient Safety, Science and Technology Summit it acknowledges the best ideas and initiatives with the Humanitarian Award. One of the four award winners for 2015 is Professor Kai Zacharowski, Director of the Department of Anaesthesia, Intensive Care Medicine and Pain Therapy at University Hospital Frankfurt. He received the award in California at the end of January for his research on a new patient blood management system. The system permits an economical use of blood as a limited resource whilst at the same time raising patient safety. Alongside Professor Zacharowski, American President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received a joint award for their commitment to establishing broad access to healthcare. The other award winners are Senator Barbara Boxer and patient activist Alicia Cole.

Innovative concept with great potential

Every third patient admitted to hospital for an operation suffers from anaemia. This leads to an increased risk of complications during both surgery and aftercare, since the red corpuscles transport less oxygen due to a decreased concentration of haemoglobin. To date, patients were given donated blood transfusions in such cases. These can, however, lead to additional health complications, such as kidney damage.

The patient blood management system developed by Professor Zacharowski and his team has the potential to avert harm to patients in countless cases. The model comprises three pillars: Those patients are identified who have a high risk of anaemia. The haemoglobin level of these patients is increased prior to the operation by intravenous administration of iron. This minimizes the likelihood of them reaching a threshold after the operation which would make a blood transfusion necessary.

"With the aid of this approach, blood transfusions can be reduced by up to 20 percent and the risk of acute kidney damage and costs can be lowered - without endangering the patient's health through potential anaemia. Drawing attention to this fact, even if it calls into question hospital routine up to now, is my job as the patient's advocate", says Professor Zacharowski.

Professor Patrick Meybohm, his senior consultant, adds: "Here in the USA we have been given a platform for our results, which can trigger a fundamental change in the perception of anaemia and its therapy."
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Goethe University Frankfurt

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