Blood Shortage Protocols


PORTLAND, Ore. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — A lot of us donate blood … nearly seven million people do every year. But the demand is overwhelming: someone needs blood in America every two seconds.  Besides the constant demand, catastrophes happen that prevent donated blood from getting where it’s needed. Learn more about backup plans to make sure we don’t run out.

The Red Cross calls Peter Vallans a four-gallon man.

That’s how much blood he has regularly donated over the past few years.

Vallans shared “I always thought it’s an easy answer for peoples’ problems. I mean, you can give blood and save a life and it’s replenishable so it’s a pretty easy thing to do to help people.”

The demand for blood at America’s hospitals almost seems overwhelming. At Portland’s Oregon health and science university hospital alone, about 33 thousand pints of blood are used every year. But what happens when something terribly goes wrong?

Mick Scanlan, M.D., the Medical Director for Transfusion Medicine Service at Oregon Health & Science University said “The worst problem is there’s a transportation impact. An earthquake, a big huge snowstorm where people can’t get to their blood center, where airplanes can’t land. That’s really the big problem. How to deal with that is extremely difficult.”

Transfusion experts predict we may soon be able to store precious but perishable blood longer.

“And there are people who are actually trying to freeze dried plasma so it can have a very long shelf life.” Said Dr. Scanlan.

But until then, responsible back up plans and generous donors are the mainstays against a catastrophic blood shortage.

Vallans stated, “You realize for people its life or death and it might have been your blood that kept them alive.”

Although nearly four in every ten Americans are eligible to donate blood, the Red Cross estimates less than one in ten of us actually does in any given year. O-negative blood type has the most frequent shortages according to Dr. Scanlan.

Contributors to this news report include: John Hammarly, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Jeff Haney , Videographer.

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BACKGROUND: Donating blood can help save millions of people nationwide. In order to donate blood, one must be in good general health overall, at least 17 years of age, and weigh at least 110 pounds. If you have an illness or a pre-existing condition, you can check the American Red Cross website to see a list of conditions that are acceptable in order to donate blood. For example, if you have diabetes you can still donate blood as long as your health is under control. It is also important to be aware of the medications one is taking before donating blood, all of the criteria can be found at the American Red Cross website. The benefits of donating blood is that one can get a free mini physical where the pulse, hemoglobin, blood pressure, and body temperature is taken.  To have a successful donation one must bring in the appropriate materials, such as ID, and list of medications. In addition, remember to stay hydrated, have a light healthy meal, and eat foods that are rich in iron.


THE STUDY: Earlier this year, there was a major shortage of blood supply that resulted in cancellations of elective surgeries in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.  Surgeries like liver transplants can use up to 120 units of donated blood. The demand for blood donations increase annually by 6 %; however, actual donations increase only 3%.


NEW SOLUTIONS:  Last year Vascular Solutions filed an investigational new drug application with the FDA for the RePlas freeze-dried plasma product it’s developing with the U.S. Army Medical Material Development Activity. RePlas is freeze-dried as opposed to fresh frozen plaza. “We believe RePlas will offer important benefits for both the U.S. military and the general public,” CEO Howard Root said. “Freeze-dried plasma will have wide applicability in emergency situations where plasma is not currently available and when time constraints limit the use of fresh frozen plasma.


MORE FROM MICK SCANLAN, MD:  “Blood shortages are fortunately rare events, and our Donor Centers make every effort to minimize the length of shortages. Public appeals for donors are part of the reaction when blood inventories are low in the Donor Centers. Despite all the efforts to avoid or minimize shortages, occasionally one or more blood product comes into short supply. Hospital response include: Making hospital staff aware of the shortage, obtaining blood products from other hospitals or blood centers, if available, increasing use of blood salvage equipment and drugs that help minimize transfusion needs, delaying elective transfusions and elective surgery and working with providers to allocate blood to those with the most critical needs.”

* For More Information, Contact:

Erik Robinson

Senior Media Relations Specialist

OHSU / Oregon Health & Science University

(503) 494-7986