Background: Practice guidelines reflect published literature. Because of the ever changing literature base, it is necessary to update and revise guideline recommendations from time to time. The Society of Thoracic Surgeons recommends review and possible update of previously published guidelines at least every three years. This summary is an update of the blood conservation guideline published in 2007. Methods The search methods used in the current version differ compared to the previously published guideline. Literature searches were conducted using standardized MeSH terms from the National Library of Medicine PUBMED database list of search terms. The following terms comprised the standard baseline search terms for all topics and were connected with the logical 'OR' connectorExtracorporeal circulation (MeSH number E04.292), cardiovascular surgical procedures (MeSH number E04.100), and vascular diseases (MeSH number C14.907). Use of these broad search terms allowed specific topics to be added to the search with the logical 'AND' connector. Results In this 2011 guideline update, areas of major revision include: 1) management of dual anti-platelet therapy before operation, 2) use of drugs that augment red blood cell volume or limit blood loss, 3) use of blood derivatives including fresh frozen plasma, Factor XIII, leukoreduced red blood cells, platelet plasmapheresis, recombinant Factor VII, antithrombin III, and Factor IX concentrates, 4) changes in management of blood salvage, 5) use of minimally invasive procedures to limit perioperative bleeding and blood transfusion, 6) recommendations for blood conservation related to extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and cardiopulmonary perfusion, 7) use of topical hemostatic agents, and 8) new insights into the value of team interventions in blood management. Conclusions Much has changed since the previously published 2007 STS blood management guidelines and this document contains new and revised recommendations.