Pinoy Surgeon Coins “Transfusion Free Medicine” For Bloodless Surgery

by Elpidio R. Estioko

Do you know that the medical term “Transfusion Free Medicine” for bloodless surgery, which is now widely accepted by the medical profession, was coined by a Filipino surgeon?

Dr. Manuel R. Estioko, who is a surgeon and cardiologist, coined the phrase “Transfusion Free” for the first time in 1996.

He thought it is the appropriate terminology because there is always some blood loss in even the smallest, simplest operation (hence not really “bloodless”). Bloodless was used much earlier and had been around, but many adopted Transfusion Free extensively since then.

A patient named Walker Swofford, knowing that it would conflict with his religious beliefs, puts off having open heart surgery for as long as possible – until his symptoms got so bad that he would get winded just walking to his car.

Swofford, an Inglewood resident, told The Daily Breeze in a 2011 article: “I was in denial at first… I didn’t want to accept it.”

His physician said he needs donor blood during a heart procedure. But Swofford’s religion and faith, Jehovah’s Witness, prohibits the practice.

Later on, the 60-year-old Swofford learned about transfusion free surgery and Dr. Estioko, a surgeon who came to Torrance Memorial Medical Center a year prior.

“All of the evidence supports the conclusion that patients who do not receive blood have better outcomes. Both short and long term, patients do better.” Dr. Estioko told Daily Breeze. He first began performing transfusion-free surgery in 1996.

The procedure requires more planning to ensure the safety of transfusion-free surgery. Patients are screened for anemia and other blood disorders and are watched closely for any signs of bleeding or hypertension. Blood loss during the procedure is minimized by using a range of techniques including a special scalpel that burns the tissue.

The surgery is greatly welcomed by the Jehovah’s Wit[1]ness community. In the 1940s, it formally banned the practice of receiving blood transfusions as they believe that blood is sacred which is something that cannot be duplicated based in biblical scripture.

“He assured me that he could do this procedure,” Swofford told Daily Breeze. “I was very relieved.”

The surgery was successful. Swofford’s recovery lasted about a week. He also told Daily Breeze that he felt much better.

Dr. Estioko is a pioneer in transfusion free medicine. He has been performing cardiothoracic surgery without blood transfusions for more than 30 years.

“The appeal of transfusion-free medicine has been fueled by the public’s growing awareness of health issues such as blood-borne viruses, bacteria and other infectious agents, even in safe donated blood,” Dr. Estioko told Santa Monica Mirror in 2005.

“Eliminating transfusions eliminates the unnecessary exposure to pathogens carried by donors and offers important benefits to patients, including safety, cost savings and faster recovery. The medical literature also supports that there is less incidence of infection among these patients,” he added.

Born and raised in the Philippines, Dr. Estioko received his medical degree from University of Santo Tomas. He was a surgeon and instructor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York for many years. He currently practices cardiovascular surgery in Santa Monica, California.

ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author at

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