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All about blood transfusions

Blood transfusions are one of the most common procedures in modern medicine, used to treat anything from chronic illness to a gunshot wound. Learn more about the rich history of blood transfusions, the objections held by some religious groups, and where you can make a donation today.

Introduction

Blood transfusion is the process of directly transferring blood into a vein. Transfusions replace lost blood (or components thereof), and are used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions.

History

The first records of sophisticated research into blood transfusions originate in the early 17th century, when blood was successfully transferred between animals. However, when the same techniques were employed in human experimentation, the results had fatal results. When Richard Lower documented a detailed procedure for a blood transfusion in 1665, he demonstrated using two dogs. Lower is widely credited with developing modern transfusion techniques. However, the first successful blood transfusion between humans was actually conducted two years later by
Dr. Jean-Baptiste Denys. Denys attempted to claim credit for the medical breakthrough, but Lower’s priority could not be challenged. Many years passed before the possibility of blood storage became a reality. 1914 marked the first non-direct transfusion, and its success unveiled the potential for blood banks. The process of blood storage is relatively simple, requiring refrigeration and the addition of a simple compound to prevent clotting. Modern blood banks store common blood samples for up to 21 days, and rare samples for 10 years (using an expensive process called cryopreservation).

Objections

Certain groups have been known to object to blood transfusions on religious grounds. One common example is that of Jehovah witnesses, who believe that the Bible prohibits the ingestion of blood. By receiving blood intravenously, they fear that their entry into “heaven” will be jeopardised. This has caused much controversy in recent years, with certain procedures being prohibited whilst others are permitted. There are even recorded cases of a mother attempting to prevent her child from receiving a potentially life-saving transfusion, based on these religious beliefs. Modern blood transfusion techniques continue to save thousands of lives per day. They can be used to treat chronic illness, or even to replace blood lost in a traffic accident. Visit Blood.co.uk, to find out where to make a donation locally, and help to save lives today.

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