Blood Shortage Puts Some Surgeries on Hold; Organ Donations Could Be Halted If Not Enough Blood Is on Hand

By Hannan, Larry | The Florida Times Union, April 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Blood Shortage Puts Some Surgeries on Hold; Organ Donations Could Be Halted If Not Enough Blood Is on Hand


Hannan, Larry, The Florida Times Union


Byline: LARRY HANNAN

A dramatic blood shortage has prompted the postponement of nonvital surgeries in Jacksonville hospitals and is fueling fears that organ donations could be halted.

Blood supplies are critically low -- meaning a day or less before running out -- in several blood types, said John Helgren, spokesman for the Blood Alliance, a nonprofit community blood bank that supplies area hospitals.

The shortage locally and in other parts of the U.S. stems from the growing gap between those needing blood and flagging donations.

"This is one of the more critical shortages that we've experienced," Helgren said.

The three blood types most affected are O negative, O positive and B negative. Other blood types are also in low supply but not yet at perilous levels.

"This is a big deal because we're sitting on the edge of our seats concerned that we won't have enough blood to deal with a bad trauma," said Colleen Higgs, transfusion service supervisor at Shands Jacksonville, the city's only trauma center.

If a hospital runs out of blood, it needs to get it from another hospital. That can be time consuming and puts a patient's health at risk. Hospitals in the area share blood on a first-come, first-serve basis when the supplies are low.

C. Daniel Smith, chairman of surgery at the Mayo Clinic, said cardiac surgeries have been put off in the last few days because doctors weren't satisfied with the amount of blood available.

The clinic has not had to decline organs for transplant yet but will probably have to do so if the blood shortage continues, Smith said.

In 2007, Mayo had to reject about 10 organs for transplant because it didn't have enough blood at the time those organs became available, Smith said.

Usually, blood shortages occur during the Christmas holidays and in the summer months because people don't think to donate at those times, but people are more likely to end up in the hospital, Helgren said. …

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