Written by Page McNall

A Blood Bank is akin to your financial bank, however it uses the life-saving currency of blood, instead of cash.  Blood Banks accept deposits, can transfer “currency”, and hospitals can make withdrawals. A blood bank may be managed by a large organization like the American Red Cross or your neighborhood hospital that collects blood for use within their own facility. Regardless of the Blood Bank’s management, it’s “currency” saves lives. The American Red Cross states that a pint of blood can save up to three lives.  Maybe you can be a hero today.

With more than 40,000 units of blood needed each and every day, blood banks play a critical role in saving lives and helping hospitals deliver quality patient care. In the United States alone, someone needs blood every two seconds. This incredible need drives the blood banking industry, which is a medical logistic activity that delivers potentially life-saving benefits of blood transfusion and blood products to the patients who need them. According to a survey done by the American Red Cross Society, there is a critical shortage of blood in some parts of the U.S. This shortage has forced the cancellation of elective surgeries in major metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

According to the American Association of Blood Banks that establishes the standards for blood collection and storage, 9.2 million people donate blood each year and over 30 percent are first time donors. Although the awareness of the importance of blood donation is increasing and more people are donating blood, there is a shortage driven by complex medical procedures such as chemotherapy, heart surgeries, and organ transplants, which require large amounts of blood and blood products. The demand far outpaces the increase in blood donations. Although donations are increasing annually by 3 percent, the demand is growing at 6 percent, widening the gap. The blood donation industry will continue to struggle to keep up with the demand as the baby boomer population ages.

Fundamentals of blood banks

Blood banks are the laboratories where blood is collected from the donor, separated, and stored for medical or research purposes. Blood is usually collected as whole blood and may subsequently be separate it into its various components (red blood cells, platelets, plasma) so they can be used most effectively based to the needs of the patient.

Blood donation requires fastidious procedures, which include pre-screening, collection, separation of components, preservation and delivery for medical or research use. Since blood is a living product, blood banks must monitor and control storage and transfer conditions to include temperature and time since collection.  Whole blood and its components, such as red blood cells, platelets, and blood plasma, each require different storage conditions and have a different shelf life.  Whole blood has a short shelf life of 42 days, whereas plasma can be stored frozen for up to a year.  If not monitored and controlled properly, this process can be dangerous to the donor as well as the recipient. There is always a risk of transmitting blood borne diseases via infected blood. To tackle the problem, certain strict guidelines have been created for blood banks. These guidelines govern how much of whose blood they can take and how often they can take it. These guidelines ensure that property safety and screening measures are taken while collecting blood from donors. Blood bank regulations also direct guidelines on how blood is to be stored and labeled, and how donors are to be treated. Hence, blood bank regulations ensure the safety of both donors and recipients of blood. With these regulations, there is a very little or no room for error.

After the screening of healthy donors is done, specific measures are taken to collect blood so that the process is as painless as possible. This is an important point, because the blood banks want repeat customers! Therefore, blood bank regulations include instructions regarding the manner in which the blood is taken. The donor’s age, weight, blood pressure and blood iron content are measured and should be within the normal limits prior to the actual blood donation to ensure that they do not suffer any detrimental effects from the procedure.  Proper labeling and storage of blood is done.

Do you want to donate blood? If you want to find out where you can donate, follow the link to the   American Association of Blood Banks website to search for blood donation centers http://www.aabb.org/resources/donation/Pages/bblocator.aspx. Give blood and save a life.