Viewpoint: 1 problem fueling preventable deaths

A lack of emergency blood transfusions is a national crisis "fueling" preventable deaths, three physicians wrote in a JAMA opinion piece Oct. 12.

The piece was written by John Holcomb, MD, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, William Hoots, MD, former director of the division of blood diseases and resources at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; and Travis Polk, MD, director of the Combat Casualty Care Research Program. They wrote that not enough healthcare facilities or emergency vehicles are equipped for emergency transfusions despite a study that found blood products decrease mortality by 10%.

"When all indicated blood products are available and given early, deaths due to hemorrhage decrease and care is cost-effective," the authors wrote. "However, of the 2045 hospitals to which the American Red Cross supplied blood components in 2019, 33% did not routinely have platelets ready to transfuse to bleeding patients, and more than 78% of those hospitals are in a rural setting."

The problem stems from infrastructure, according to the authors, who said better collaboration between government agencies, academic institutions, and military and civilian trauma centers could produce the needed change.

The piece comes after the American Red Cross declared a national blood shortage Sept. 11, saying blood and platelet supplies have fallen to "critically low levels."

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