Today, the process of donating blood and receiving transfusions is routine. In fact, roughly half of all Canadians will require a blood transfusion at some point in their lives. The service that facilitates this was built up slowly over the 20th century, growing from early techniques and exploratory research to a trusted and vital part of the healthcare system. Here are four facts about the development of blood banks for medical professionals in training.
The First World War Encouraged Visionaries to Push for Progress
The 19th century saw some important early steps in blood transfusion, with the performance of the first human to human blood transfusion and the discovery of different blood types. However, it was the medical needs of World War 1 that encouraged a real leap forward, with a Canadian surgeon, Lawrence Bruce Robertson, pioneering the successful use of syringe transfusions.
This war saw the establishment of the first blood banks, with extracted blood being stockpiled for the first time at Allied casualty clearing stations ahead of the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. The benefits of blood transfusions recorded during that conflict, and the effectiveness of having sufficient supplies on hand, helped convince medical authorities that the stockpiling of blood had considerable benefits.
Establishing Early Public Donor Networks Was Instrumental in Creating Blood Banks
While the acute needs of militaries drove the development of the first blood banks, opening up the benefits of blood transfusion to the civilian public would require an organized, steady supply of donations. One of the first services set up to deliver this was the London Blood Transfusion Service in 1921. This was one of the first donor networks, and consisted of approximately 500 donors. Administered by the British Red Cross, the idea caught on and similar networks began to spring up around Europe.
Just prior to the outbreak of World War 2, Hungarian physician Bernard Fantus established the first hospital blood bank in the US at Cook Country Hospital in Chicago. The wartime push for donors would soon help to build networks around the US and Canada that many professionals with healthcare training still see today.
The Arrival of Plastic Helped to Revolutionize and Simplify Blood Storage
One of the first widespread uses of plastics in the post-World War 2 era was by medical organizations looking for a better way to store, transport, and provide blood for transfusions. The drawbacks of using glass containers were clear, with the rigors of military or emergency scenarios often resulting in smashed bottles.
The storage of blood and plasma was hugely simplified by plastic
By changing to cheaper, disposable plastic bags, professionals working with blood could eliminate the rigorous decontamination process glass bottles required before re-use, while also reducing weight and bulk. Workers with medical lab tech training will also know that blood, and its constituent components like plasma, can also be easily refrigerated when stored in well-designed plastic bags. As more products used plastic elements over the 1960s and 1970s, the benefits of a plastic changeover were already being seen in blood banks.
Pros With Medical Lab Tech Training Now Help Provide Blood for 4.5 Million Patients Annually
Today, the hugely expanded role that blood banks play in Canadian public health is evident. Across the US and Canada, over 20,000 litres of donated blood are used on an average day. The storage and supply of blood is now managed by a national authority known as the Canadian Blood Services. Rolling campaigns for donations that authorities like the Canadian Blood Services carry out help to ensure that the considerable supplies needed by Canadian patients stay sufficiently stocked and ready to help people all over the country.
The scale of the role that blood banks now play in the medical system is substantial
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