PURPOSE Intraoperative cell salvage (ICS) is used as an alternative to allogeneic blood transfusion in an attempt to avoid or minimize the risks associated with allogeneic blood. Intraoperative cell salvage is generally avoided in surgeries where malignancy is confirmed or suspected due to concern for potential metastasis or cancer recurrence. The application of post-processing methods for ICS is hypothesized to
eliminate this potential risk. The purpose of this narrative review is to examine the in vitro experimental evidence as it pertains to the removal of tumour cells from ICS blood and to review the clinical studies where ICS blood has been used in patients with malignancy. SOURCE A search of the English literature for relevant articles published from 1973 to 2012 was undertaken using MEDLINE and Cochrane databases. Bibliographies were cross-referenced to locate further studies. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS Leukoreduction filters are an effective method for removal of malignant cells from ICS blood. Small non-randomized clinical studies to date do not show evidence of an increased rate of metastasis or cancer recurrence. Although a theoretical risk of disease recurrence persists, the decision to use autologous ICS blood must be weighed against the known risks of allogeneic blood transfusion. CONCLUSION Transfusion of autologous blood harvested via ICS should be considered a viable option for reduction or avoidance of allogeneic product during many oncologic surgeries and may be a lifesaving option for those patients who refuse allogeneic blood products.