May 2, 2022
Whole Blood Saves Lives
Most people think that when they donate blood, that blood is exactly what is used for another patient. However, that is not typically the case. Most blood banks separate the components of blood to increase shelf life and create a more versatile use.
Understanding component blood
Blood banks generally separate “whole blood” (normal human blood) into two or more parts. They can separate whole blood into red blood cells, plasma, and platelets. This is done in a few ways. The first is with a centrifuge that uses a “hard spin” or a “soft spin” depending on the desired result. Another option for separating blood is to simply let the blood sit overnight and the red cells and plasma will separate naturally.
Once these components of blood have been separated, shelf life varies depending on which component it is. Red blood cells have a shelf life of 42 days. Plasma can be kept frozen for one year and will last for 24 hours when thawed. Platelets are typically kept at room temperature for 5 days but must be constantly agitated.
Blood separation can be beneficial for shelf life and various medical needs. But, whole blood is also essential and is becoming more and more standard to have on hand in emergency situations due to its benefits to trauma patients.
Understanding whole blood
Whole blood refers to natural, unseparated human blood. Once donated, it can be stored in the refrigerator and has a shelf life of 21 days when collected using citrate phosphate dextrose solution (CDP). It must be used within 24 hours of coming to room temperature.
Whole blood is easier to administer than component blood and is effective in trauma cases requiring hemostatic resuscitation, whereas component blood is not. This makes whole blood a must-have for emergency situations. Administrating whole blood can help with the preservation of effective clotting and ultimately save lives.
The U.S. Military has successfully transfused whole blood for severely wounded patients on the battlefield and whole blood is becoming the new standard for emergency medical services.
Whole blood in EMS
Whole blood is becoming a must-have item in ambulances and other emergency medical services. If EMS can provide whole blood transfusions at the point of injury, they have a much higher potential to save lives. For trauma patients, every minute counts, and the sooner they can get a whole blood transfusion, the higher their chances of survival. Whole blood has a shorter shelf life than component blood and has a higher potential for waste, but its life-saving ability is inarguable.
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