On the January 28 broadcast of Mayo Clinic Radio, co-hosts Tracy McCray and Tom Shives, M.D., spoke with Justin Kreuter, M.D., Medical Director of the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center in Rochester, who shared the importance of blood donation and the need for cultivating a new generation of donors.
National Blood Donor Month: January
January is National Blood Donor Month, and Dr. Kreuter stated that in the winter—and summer months—many blood donor centers are in need of donations.
“We always need blood, so it’s hard to keep it at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts,” said Dr. Kreuter. “But in the winter and summer seasons, people tend to be traveling more. At Mayo, we are still taking care of patients every day who are having surgeries, medical treatments, incurring traumatic injuries, etc., but we tend to have less donors during these time periods.”
Winter Colds Keep Donors Away
Another problem during the winter? Illness. “We want healthy donors the day they come in,” said Dr. Kreuter. “If you have a cold or may be getting over the flu, do not donate blood.” And he added, “We also want donors and patients to know that we test all our donations to make sure there is nothing harmful in the blood to our patients.”
Dr. Kreuter explained that all donated blood is tested for common infectious diseases (e.g., HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, West Nile virus, and now, the Zika virus has been added to the long list). When all tests come back negative, the blood is labeled, and the units can be used in the hospital.
Types of Donations
Dr. Shives and Ms. McCray asked Dr. Kreuter to explain the difference in donations (why do some donations take very little time while others take longer?) and how the blood product is used.
“The classic way we think about donating is ‘whole blood’ where everything that comes out of your vein is used,” explained Dr. Kreuter. “But we can also specifically harvest red blood cells (RBCs), plasma, or platelets.”
In a process called apheresis, the donor’s blood is sent through a sterile machine that separates the blood components—and then returns the unused cells back to the donor.
“Many patients in the hospital tend to only need one blood component. In the case of liver disease, those patients tend to only need plasma,” said. Dr. Kreuter. “We have found that there are more immune complications to giving patients whole blood when they may really only need RBCs or plasma, etc. We are always focused on the safety of our patients and our donors.”
Listen to the Podcast
To listen to the interview, the radio segment featuring Dr. Kreuter begins at 20:54 and runs through 29:32. If you have time, the full show begins with psychologist Craig Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P. who discusses the use of electronic therapy for mental health conditions. Also on the program is primary care physician Kathy MacLaughlin, M.D. who covers the importance of cervical cancer screening and the HPV vaccine for prevention of cervical cancer.