Blood Conservation… A Call for Action
“Save Blood, Save Lives” is our call to action... to transform medical practice in a way that will benefit patients, hospitals, and the public.
From the earliest recorded history, blood has held special significance in the lives of people. Always viewed as the essence of life and tightly interwoven with man’s spirituality, it was only within the last hundred years that the science of blood and its relationship to health began to be understood.
Blood and War
Transfusion medicine emerged rapidly at the nexus of scientific advances and war. The Secretary of the United States Army and Navy, through the American Red Cross organization, established the first blood collection centers in New York City in the year proceeding our entry to the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Indeed, the defeat of the Axis powers was in some measure predicated upon the many lives saved with blood transfusions. It was then that the donation of blood became a symbol of patriotism and civic duty here in the US and in Europe.
The Evolution of Blood Transfusion
Besides management of traumatic injuries, stunning advances in medical and surgical practice became possible as transfusion medicine and blood component therapies evolved. Borne of the ravages of war, blood therapy became a mainstay of modern medicine. Though the first evidence of transmission of blood-borne infection via transfusions was recognized in the 1940’s, it wasn’t until HIV-AIDS 50 years later that the public’s confidence in the safety of the blood supply was profoundly shaken. The work of scientists along with rationale public policy have resulted in a blood supply that is safer than ever. However, recently recognized infectious agents such as West Nile virus and Mad Cow Disease pose new challenges, and other more subtle and serious risks of blood transfusion are discovered regularly.
Blood is an elegant and remarkable substance…so far it has not been possible to manufacture it. The supply of blood depends upon the steady giving of blood by others. Since blood safety is paramount, more and more potential donors are eliminated through ‘profiling’ those that may potentially carry disease. Demand for blood has escalated as more complex medical and surgical therapies are developed and the tsumani of baby-boomers seek this care. Falling supplies and escalating demand leads to frequent shortages and dramatic rise in costs.
Blood Conservation techniques and technology, once the domain for patients with religious proscription against receiving blood transfusion, has now become necessary to preserve blood for those that need it most; having blood available at these critical times will save lives. Innovations in science and care have led to the ability in most patients to avoid (or markedly reduce) the use of blood, thus eliminating risks of receiving it. Avoiding these risks will save lives.
And so we introduce our call to action, “Save Blood, Save Lives”…a call for physicians and hospitals to embrace these blood conservation practices, and for patients to seek them.