A safe and available blood supply requires the support of individuals and communities, a robust infrastructure, and highly-trained professionals all working towards the same goal: saving lives.
Community and Donor Engagement
The blood supply is unique within the healthcare system. It cannot be manufactured and relies on voluntary donations. Blood centers continuously work with community partners and individual donors to increase awareness about the need for blood, host blood drives, and, ensure a diverse donor base to guarantee the need for various blood types and blood products is being met.
Approximately 7 million blood donors walk through blood center doors annually. Highly-trained professionals guide donors through the entire blood donation experience, prioritizing their comfort and safety. Each donor is asked a series of eligibility questions to ensure they are able to donate followed by the actual donation experience. Whole blood donations take around 10 minutes, while platelets, double red cells or plasma by apheresis can take as little as 45 minutes.
Testing and Processing
Blood centers – all of whom are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (in the U.S.) and Health Canada (in Canada) – operate sophisticated laboratories that process and test every donation, which are typically available for patients in need within 24-48 hours after collection. More than 12 tests are performed to identify the blood type and make sure the blood is safe for transfusion. As a result, the blood supply is safer today than ever before.
Storage of blood components is highly controlled under Current Good Manufacturing Processes (cGMPs). After processing, red blood cells can be stored for up to 42 days, plasma can be frozen and stored for up to 12 months, and platelets must be used within 5 days. There must always be enough blood, that has been tested and stored, ready for use to meet any need, including both man-made and natural disasters. Blood centers work with federal agencies and state and local public health agencies to prepare for such incidences.
Because the need for blood never stops, blood centers operate sophisticated information technology systems to constantly monitor and respond to their local blood needs. Blood centers operate 24-hours a day, 7-day a week, 365-days a year to deliver blood wherever and whenever it is needed, including in-patient and outpatient hospital settings, both traditional and air ambulances, long-term care settings. In total, ABC members serve more than 150 million people and provide blood products and services to more than 3,500 hospitals and healthcare facilities across North America, accounting for 60 percent of the U.S. blood supply and 25 % of Canada’s.
As a result of the work of donors and blood centers, 11 million blood transfusions take place every year for patients suffering from a wide variety of conditions. Some of the most frequent uses of blood include traumas, surgeries, child birth, anemia, blood disorders, and cancer treatments.