Blood Donors in High Demand

Predictions of nationwide blood shortages next year resulting from declining contributions overstate the severity of the problem, but there is still cause for concern, according to a report issued by the General Accounting Office (GAO) last month.

Blood donations have declined during the past decade, even as demand for transfusions has grown with the rise in organ transplants and other cutting edge medical therapy. The National Blood Data Resource Center recently predicted that Americans will donate 11.7 million units of blood next year, while hospitals will need 11.9 million units. (A unit is roughly a pint.)

Some experts have predicted that blood shortages could lead to curtailment of elective surgeries as early as next year. The GAO said the blood supply is not in as dire a state as some have indicated and suggested that blood banks could close the gap by finding ways to increase donations.

BLOOD FACTS

The number of units needed for medical procedures varies by case, but typical amounts used are:

50 for treating an automobile accident victim

20 for a bone marrow transplant

40 for an organ transplant

6 for heart surgery

Although 60 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, only 5 percent does.

Donors can give whole blood as often as every eight weeks, but on average give 1.5 times a year.

Source: America's Blood Centers