The Benefits of Donating Blood
Donated blood is a part of almost all healthcare systems and is required to provide vital and emergency care all over the world. Blood transfusions are carried out millions of times a year, with an average of 2.5 million units transfused to patients. Blood transfusions can be carried out in many different instances, and donated blood used in a range of life-saving applications.
What is Donated Blood Used For?
Blood donors are a vital cog in the world of healthcare, and without donors and blood bank facilities, there would be a huge number of treatments that would not be carried out without them. Blood donations can be given either as whole blood, or as different components of blood, such as plasma.
- Sickle cell anaemia and other sickle cell conditions
- Cancer and leukaemia
- Blood disorders
The other third on average is used in surgery and emergencies (including complications during childbirth).
Without blood donations, people with ongoing conditions and those in emergencies may not be able to get the life-affirming and lifesaving care they need, which is why blood donation is so important.
Ensuring the safety of blood donors and recipients
While most healthy adults are encouraged to give blood if they can, there are stringent measures in place to prevent any blood that is unsafe for donation from being used in a transfusion. Like all medical products of human origin (MPHOs), blood donations need to be carefully screened and tracked from the donation to transfusion. Donations are all intensively screened for a range of health issues, including:
- Infectious diseases
- Low blood cell count
- Blood disorders
- A build-up of iron in the blood or iron deficient blood
- Human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV)
- Hepatitis E virus (HEV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and hepatitis B virus (HBV)
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
If any of these tests indicate a positive result, the donation will not be used. Further tests are carried out to ensure that the result does not indicate a positive diagnosis for the donor. A positive result in blood screening does not necessarily mean a positive diagnosis for the donor.
Donors will always undergo a health questionnaire before testing.
A donor can be “deferred” at any point during the blood donation process, meaning they are ineligible to donate. The period a donor is ineligible to donate for and whether that will be temporary or permanent, will depend on the reason for their deferral. For example, a donor’s personal criteria, or a failure of one or more of the standard tests against their donation.
Donating Rare Blood Types
There are four different blood groups and blood types: A, B, AB, and O. Each of these blood groups also has two types: Rh-positive or Rh-negative.
The group you belong to depends upon the types of antigens and antibodies in your blood, which are generally inherited from your parents. Antigens are a combination of sugars and proteins that coat the surface of a red blood cell, while antibodies are a part of your body’s immune system. Antibodies recognise any ‘foreign’ antigens and tell your immune system to destroy them, to help prevent infections and fight disease. However, when someone is the recipient of a blood donation, receiving blood from the wrong ABO group can be life-threatening, as their own antibodies will not recognise those in the donated blood and will try to destroy them.
Therefore, rarer blood types are always in demand, AB and B blood types are the rarest blood types, with only 1-3 percent of the population having an AB blood type (Rh-positive or negative). O positive blood is the most common type, with more than a third of the population having this blood type.
O negative makes up 13% of blood donors, however, O negative blood is also known as the “universal donor”, as it can safely be given to members of any blood group. Blood stocks of all types are always needed to run a safe and functional healthcare system.
There are also a range of blood subtypes, which have even more specific characteristics. Ro blood, for example, only makes up around 2% of regular blood donors, according to the NHS Blood and Transplant Service. Ro blood plays an important role in the treatment of sickle cell disease – an inherited blood disorder that impacts red blood cells. Blood transfusions are often necessary to treat the condition, so subtypes, like Ro, ensure patients receive blood compatible with their blood type and subtype.
Types of Blood Donation
There are a several types of blood donation, each with their own specific functions and uses.
Whole Blood Donations
Whole blood donations are the most common and most versatile. This blood can be given to recipients whole or can be separated into different components.
All blood types are needed for whole blood donations, in particular Rhesus negative blood and subtypes such as Ro are in high demand by blood banks and hospitals. Donors can donate whole blood 3 to 4 times a year.
Red Blood Cell Donations
Red blood cell donations, sometimes known as double red cell donations allow a higher concentration of red blood cells to be donated at once. Usually, around double the normal amount of red blood cells by volume. This process involves separating red blood cells from the rest of a donor’s blood, plasma and platelets are then returned to the donor. Red blood cells donations are particularly important for emergency transfusions and trauma patients. They can also be given during childbirth, to new-borns, and people with sickle cell anaemia.
Plasma makes up around 55% of our total blood composition and is vital in emergency situations, as it quickly replaces fluid. Plasma also contains over 700 proteins and a range of other substances that form key ingredients in many different medical products when extracted.
AB blood donors (positive or negative) are highly sought after for plasma donations, as their plasma can be given to any other blood type without a risk of reaction. Plasma can be donated more often than whole blood and red blood – every 28 days up to a maximum of 13 donations a year.
Platelets are the cells in blood associated with wound healing and blood clotting, platelets are what help to stop the bleeding. Platelet donations are needed for long-term illnesses, rather than acute care. Cancer patients, organ donors, patients undergoing planned surgery, and patients with ongoing conditions are usually the recipients of platelet donations.
During a platelet donation, an apheresis machine is used to collect platelets and a small amount of plasma. This small amount of plasma is needed to carry the platelet cells and make the donation into a liquid. Like other partial blood donations, red blood cells and most of the plasma collected in donations is returned to the donor during the course of their donation.
How Savant Helps Support Blood Banks
As an organisation specialising in a range of medical software, Savant are exceptionally well placed to support blood banks, hospitals, blood donors and blood donation systems in the storage, movement and tracking of blood donations. By tracking blood donations using our PULSE technology, blood donation services can confidently track and supply blood to those in need without any need to worry about the safety of the blood supplied.
To find out more about PULSE, or any of the other products and services we offer at Savant, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, and our expert team will be happy to help you.
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