Photo By: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Flickr)
As nurses, we know that one of the most critical lifesaving tools we need at our disposal is blood. Whether the patient is in need of a transfusion due to an illness or facing an unanticipated life-threatening emergency, blood saves lives. The problem is our nation’s blood banks are often in short supply of this life-saving resource, so the FDA is working in tandem with private researchers to try to find a way to keep the blood waters flowing. Let’s talk about how saving lives with blood is advancing in our healthcare industry.
According to the FDA’s Director of the Division of Blood Applications, Office of Blood Research and Review, Dr. Richard Davey, the United States uses approximately 15 million units of red blood cells annually. Fortunately, for our already tapped blood banks, the number of units has declined in recent years, because we within healthcare are better able to identify who actually needs blood. This doesn’t equate to good news overall for us, however. We still fall short of our overall needs, as I’m sure you all have experienced at some point while on the job.
Although we are using less donated blood, the number of people donating blood is steadily declining as well. In fact, Dr. Davey reported that in June of this year, the American Red Cross anticipated it would have 50,000 more donors than the amount of people who actually walked through its doors. Of the 45 percent of people healthy enough and qualified to donate blood, only 4 percent actually do so, which is very sad when you look at what we can do with donated blood in healthcare.
If you work with blood transfusions, you know the critical care these miracles of modern science provide to patients suffering from blood-related diseases such as sickle-cell anemia. Some exciting news coming down the pipeline from the FDA is new tests that will be used to match a sickle-cell patient’s red blood cell characteristics to a donor’s red blood cell characteristics. This will help prevent the sickle-cell patient’s body from developing antibodies to fight the donor blood once it’s infused, which is a common side effect of sickle-cell transfusions.
As nurses, we also know that donor blood can, in very rare cases, be tainted, and the FDA is continuing to work tirelessly to revise testing procedures to ensure all donor blood is free from any bacteria, parasites, or viruses. As Dr. Davey explains, the U.S. blood supply is extraordinarily clean, but our goal is to have it 100-percent free of any transmittable danger. The FDA is also working on artificial blood technology, and processes to keep donated blood useable for longer durations.
So what does this mean for us? I’m happy to report that it means an increased ability to use blood as a life-saving tool in critical care situations and in fighting disease. Having an adequate and safe blood supply from which to draw makes a nurse’s job exponentially easier. The FDA is working to advance the medical science behind blood transfusion technology, so we can better use blood to save our patient’s lives.
Please click on the links below to read Dr. Davey’s complete interview and access other information on this important topic: