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Reminder: We’re conserving blood for transfusions

04 Dec 2022

Red Cross still unable to meet usual allocations

By: Andrew Judd, MD, Laboratory Medical Director and Deepshikha Datta, MD, Transfusion Service Medical Director

Salem Health has been facing a months-long shortage of red blood cells for transfusions. The American Red Cross is our blood products supplier and continues experiencing declining red blood cell (RBC) inventory. 

The most recent shortages began in late summer. As a result, the Red Cross has repeatedly notified us when they are unable to meet our usual allocations for red blood cells for transfusion.

Limits are applied to all Group O red blood cell (RBC) orders. For several weeks the ARC has limited the amount of Group O RBC that have been supplied to hospitals nationwide. Additional shortages may occur in other RBC types. Salem Health has also experienced an increasing need for blood product transfusion in recent months.

To manage transient shortages, and ensure that blood product remains available to meet critical and emergency needs, Salem Health is using these strategies to conserve red blood cells for transfusion:

  1. Requests to transfuse patients with hemoglobin level of greater than 6.0 mg/dL may prompt review of indications when a specific blood type is in short supply. This may include contact between the pathologist on call and the ordering provider.
  2. When a specific blood type is in limited supply, outpatient RBC transfusions may need to be limited to one unit, always with physician discussion when this is necessary.
  3. As a general practice, to help reduce the use of red blood cells, consider routinely transfusing only one unit at a time in outpatients.
  4. For hospitalized patients, RBC transfusions should also be transfused one unit at a time with re-check of hemoglobin/HCT after each unit.
  5. Blood requested under emergency release will not be subject to the above.

These steps will preserve access to blood products. At this time, surgical procedures are not being postponed based solely on blood supply. We anticipate needing to conserve blood product through the winter. 

Please help us by encouraging anyone needing hospital-level care to not delay care.