Marks Daily Apple
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1 Nov

Is Banked Blood Bad?

Blood transfusions save millions of lives every year, and I happen to think giving blood is one of the simplest and best acts of love for your fellow humans. But banked blood may also be causing unintended harm.

In an interesting piece I caught in this week’s Time, writer Alice Park details a difficult question health experts have been pondering for some time now: whether banked blood is causing deaths in some patients. Heart attacks and deaths jump significantly – as much as 25% – in patients who receive blood transfusions. It’s not due to allergies or infections or mistakes. Even accounting for these factors, heart attacks still happen more often and without warning in those who get transfusions. What gives?

As it turns out, nitric oxide deficiency is common in stored blood. Nitric oxide (NO) assists red blood cells in transporting oxygen to various tissues, as well as supporting vessels. Technically a gas, NO is vital to proper blood function, and banked blood has been found to show depleted levels as high as 70%. In other words, patients are getting blood that can’t deliver the goods. In light of this, doctors are increasingly waiting until patients’ hematocrit levels are lowered – as low as 30%, a change in practice from the previous standard of 45-55%. That helps. Another solution – and a more controversial one – is to inject patients with liquid NO to mitigate the risk of a blood transfusion.

Another interesting note in medical history, I think, and I wanted to share it with you.

Size 8 Jeans Flickr Photo (CC)

Further reading:

My thoughts on health care in America

Is Intermittent Fasting healthy?

The homeopathy scam

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  1. Although, banked blood may be deficient with nitric oxide, the body can compensate.

    Magnus wrote on November 2nd, 2007
  2. Although I agree that giving blood is a great idea, I’m not allowed to participate. I’m on the banned list at blood banks because I lived in Berlin for three years in the late 80s during a mad cow episode in Europe.

    Dave C. wrote on November 2nd, 2007
  3. This is an old and well-known fact among doctors. Most prefer not to transfuse blood unless it is a must.

    Moe wrote on November 2nd, 2007
  4. >>Most prefer not to transfuse blood unless it is a must.

    Dave C. wrote on November 2nd, 2007
  5. Hmmmm…my comment didn’t seem to make it. I’ll try again.

    I would think that in most (all) instances, by the time a transfusion is warranted, it’s a must (blood doping cyclists aside). What would be an example of geeting blood when it’s not a must? (not a flame–just looking for info).

    Dave C. wrote on November 2nd, 2007

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