Unreliability of Intraoperative Estimated Blood Loss in Extended Sagittal Synostectomies

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Intraoperative blood loss represents a significant concern during open repair of craniosynostosis, and its reliable measurement remains a serious challenge. In this study of extended sagittal synostectomies, the authors analyzed the relationship between estimated blood loss (EBL) and calculated blood loss (CBL), and investigated predictors of hemodynamic outcomes.


The authors reviewed outcomes in infants with sagittal synostosis who underwent primary extended synostectomies (the so-called Pi procedure) between 1997 and 2009. Patient demographic data, operating time, and mean arterial pressures (MAPs) were recorded. Serial MAPs were averaged for a MAP(mean). The EBL was based on anesthesia records, and the CBL on pre- and postoperative hemoglobin values in concert with transfusion volumes. Factors associated with EBL, CBL, red blood cell transfusion (RBCT), and hospital length of stay (LOS) were investigated. Hemodynamic outcomes were reported as percent estimated blood volume (% EBV), and relationships were analyzed using simple and multiple linear and logistic regression models. A p value < 0.05 was considered significant.


Seventy-one infants with sagittal synostosis underwent primary extended synostectomies at a mean age and weight of 4.9 months and 7.3 kg, respectively. The average operating time was 1.4 hours, and intraoperative MAP was 54.6 mm Hg (21.3% lower than preoperative baseline). There was no association between mean EBL (12.7% EBV) and mean CBL (23.6% EBV) (r = 0.059, p = 0.63). The EBL inversely correlated with the patient's age (r = -0.07) and weight (r = -0.11) at surgery (p < 0.05 in both instances). With regard to intraoperative factors, EBL positively trended with operating time (r = 0.26, p = 0.09) and CBL inversely trended with MAP(mean) (r = -0.04, p = 0.10), although these relationships were only borderline significant. Intraoperative RBCT, which was required in 59.1% of patients, positively correlated with EBL (r = 1.55, p < 0.001), yet negatively trended with CBL (r = -0.40, p = 0.01). Undertransfusion was significantly more common than overtransfusion (40.8% vs 22.5%, p = 0.02, respectively). The mean hospital LOS was 2.3 days and was not significantly associated with patient demographic characteristics, intraoperative factors, blood loss, RBCT, or total fluid requirements.


In extended synostectomies for sagittal synostosis, EBL and CBL demonstrated a decided lack of correlation with one another. Intraoperative blood transfusion positively correlated with EBL, but inversely correlated with CBL, with a significantly higher proportion of patients undertransfused than overtransfused. These findings highlight the need for reliable, real-time monitoring of intraoperative blood loss to provide improved guidance for blood and fluid resuscitation.