Blood donations may not be the best immediate response to tragedies, study says
Most blood that is donated after these events will be used -- but some may be discarded instead
As hundreds lined up to donate blood in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, a new study said that calls for blood donations after such mass-casualty events are not always necessary and may not be the best immediate response to such tragedies.
The study strikes a “delicate balance” and is not meant to dissuade people from donating blood, but it does raise critical questions about how blood donations are used after mass shootings, said Dr. James Lozada, lead author of the study, published Monday in The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery.
“It’s important to convey the message that blood donation is extremely important, but it’s important to do it regularly throughout the year,” said Lozada, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “The blood that is donated afterwards is very unlikely to be used for these individual tragedies.”
Most blood that is donated after these events will be used, he said, but “some of it risks being outdated and going unused.”
“Blood is a precious commodity, and we want to use every drop of it,” he said. “That’s why we encourage people to donate regularly rather than in the immediate aftermaths of these events.”
Lozada’s study looked at blood donations after the October 2017 shootings in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and more than 800 wounded. Three Las Vegas health care systems provided data for the study on 220 victims who required hospital admission, including 68 in critical condition.
United Blood Services, the Las Vegas blood bank now called Vitalant, reported receiving 791 donations immediately after the shooting and reported to the study authors that 137 of these donations – or 17% – were “wasted,” meaning the donated blood went unused and was subsequently discarded, according to the study.
“The public call for blood donors was not necessary to meet immediate demand and led to resource waste,” the study concluded. “Preparation for future mass shooting incidents should include training the community in hemorrhage control, encouraging routine blood donation, and avoiding public calls for blood donation unless approved by local blood suppliers.”