Blood Transfusion

Dr. B, is blood transfusion safe?

Susan, blood can never be 100 percent safe. Therefore, it is important for health care professionals to develop strategies to avoid the need for blood.

But this not always possible. In Canada, approximately 600,000 people receive blood each year. It saves lives of critically ill patients. It also improves the quality of life of other patients who require blood transfusion.

So the need never stops!

Then, Dr. B., how safe is it to have a blood transfusion?

The safety level of blood transfusion in Canada has improved a lot. Recently, a not-for-profit, charitable organization called Canadian Blood Services (CBS) was given the task of collection and distribution of blood.

Susan, unlike Red Cross, blood is the sole focus for CBS. Safety, through research and development, is a priority for the Canada’s new blood agency, says Lynda Cranston, CEO of CBS in a recent article in Hospital Quarterly.

CBS spends $20 million annually for a new screening weapon that allows earlier detection of the viruses that cause hepatitis C and AIDS. Further $10 million is spent annually on leukoreduction – a process in which white blood cells are removed from the blood supply. This will further reduce the risk of transfusion reaction and infection.

Currently, the risk of viral infection to a recipient is too low to measure.

Dr. B, is it true that only 5 percent of the population donates blood, yet virtually all Canadians will need blood or blood products in their life time?

Yes Susan, that is correct. In the last 10 years, the amount of blood collected in Canada has dropped from 1.2 million units a year to just under 700,000 units. This is not good.

CBS needs donors. The bottom line is without donors there would be no Canadian Blood Services, says Gaylene Smith, Communications Coordinator of CBS in Calgary. She adds, “Medicine Hat is a terrific supporter of our mobile clinics.”

In the first five months of this year, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge have had 6 blood donor clinics each. The average attendance in Medicine Hat is 214 with average collection of 190 units of blood at each clinic. Figures for Lethbridge are: 211 and 186 respectively.

How much blood do we use in Medicine Hat?

In 1984, we used 80 units of packed red blood cells per month. In the last one year we have used 150 units per month, says Dr. Michael O’Connor, pathologist at Palliser Health Authority. He adds, “Like other places our need never stops either!”

“We certainly need more donors. Donors should remember that they are at no risk of contracting viral infection,” emphasizes Dr. O’Connor.

Dr B., can I be a donor?

Sure Susan, you can be a donor if you are between 17 and 61 years of age. You should weigh 50kg (110 lbs.) or more. Have a proper ID. You should not be on any medication, which will affect the recipient. You should wait at least 56 days between donations.

Thank you Dr. B. I better phone the toll free number (1-877-444-9284) and find out the date of next blood donor clinic in Medicine Hat.

Sounds like a good idea! Remember, a unit of blood saves more than one life! Good luck, Susan.

This series of articles explore the health problems of Dave and his family. They are composite characters of a typical family with health problems.

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