U.S. Blood shortage hits critical levels – Utah hospitals watching closely; here’s how Utahns can help

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The need for blood donations across the nation is at an all-time high, including here in Utah.

The American Red Cross attributes the need to rising trauma cases as summer is underway, transplants, and surgeries which have depleted the nation’s blood inventory.

In addition to atypically high number of trauma cases, hospitals across the country are seeing people who put off necessary surgeries or deferred care during the height of the pandemic present with more advanced disease progression, requiring increased blood transfusions.

During the last three months, the Red Cross has distributed an additional 75,000 blood products more than expected to meet these needs, significantly decreasing the national blood supply.

“We’re asking that Utahns step up and donate during this critical time. It’s vital that we have enough blood to treat patients who are undergoing surgeries and procedures, as well as trauma patients who are brought in from the scene of an accident who are fighting for their lives,” said Sarah Ilstrup, MD, clinical pathology medical director for Intermountain Healthcare

Blood is perishable and cannot be stockpiled, it has a shelf life of about 42 days, so it must constantly be replenished by generous blood donors. 

With the Fourth of July holiday, a typically high trauma weekend just around the corner, emergency rooms and hospitals need to have enough blood products on hand to be prepared.

Type O is the most in-demand blood type and often the first to be depleted from hospital shelves during a shortage. Type O negative is the universal blood type and what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations. Type O positive is the most common blood type and be transfused to Rh-positive patients of any blood type.

Twenty to 40% of trauma deaths that occur after hospital admission involve massive hemorrhaging, and doctors need a secure blood supply to help fight those odds. To save a life in these circumstances, hospitals may need hundreds of blood products depending on the severity of the trauma.

The Red Cross also reports donor turnout appears to be particularly lower than normal this summer, as Americans get their COVID-19 vaccine and resume summer travels and activities after more than a year of quarantining and limited activity due to the pandemic.

Healthy individuals are needed to donate now and throughout the summer to help patients counting on lifesaving blood. Intermountain physicians predict the shortage may last 60 to 90 days.

To schedule an appointment, go to the American Red Cross website or you can visit the ARUP Laboratories website.

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