Ever wondered what happens to the blood you donate? How do blood banks work?

blood donation


Blood banks have a rather major role in health care and contribute integrally to various medical treatment procedures. The term ‘blood bank’ refers to the system of collection of blood, acquiring various individual elements of the blood and effectively storing them so that they could be put to ready use in the future. Some of the important elements of the blood that are separated and then stored independently are the red blood cells, the platelets and the plasma – each of which has their specific functions.

Importance of blood banks

It is true that the body can build new blood cells. New research studies go on to prove that with the help of certain medicines the bone marrow can produce new blood. However, it is a time taking procedure. The process can take as long as some weeks. Hence at the time of a crucial emergency donated blood from the blood banks has proven to be vital in saving lives.

 As per the records of the American Red Cross more than 5 million people across the world have a requirement of blood transfusion every year. 


The process of blood banking

The process of blood banking happens to be a rather intriguing one. To understand the exact nature and the essence of the process let us take a closer look at the various stages of blood banking.

Donation is the first step or stage where the donor arrives at the exact location, date and time of blood donation. The health history of the donor is checked and a physical examination is completed.  All the details of the donor are recorded, coded and then mentioned against the blood samples. Before the blood is taken for further processing it is kept on ice.

Processing – The first thing that is done at a blood processing centre is that all the information of the donor is scanned and is then fed into the computers and is stored for later reference. The donated blood is then spun through centrifuges so that it’s various elements like plasma, platelets, and red cells. Further, these elements can be separated into different components. Like plasma is separated into cryoprecipitate. Both the platelets and the red cells are leuko reduced where the white cells are removed so that the risk factor for the recipient is reduced. Every single component is then packaged as a unit and kept separately for the later process of transfusion.

Testing – This is a stage that happens with the previous or the second stage of processing. Several tests are done so that the blood type can be ascertained and other tests are done so that it can be established that the blood is not infected in any way and happens to be safe for transfusion. In case some infection is found then the blood sample is discarded.

Storage – Once the reports come and it is confirmed that the blood is perfect for transfusion then the different components that have been separated are stored independently. The red blood cells can be stored for 42 days at a temperature of 6 degrees C. Platelets can be stored for five days at room temperature and plasma can be frozen and kept for a year in the freezer.

Distribution – Blood is shipped to hospitals all around the week 24 hours a day. However, hospitals keep certain bloodstock with them for ready use in times of emergency.

Blood transfusion could be required by patients in a large number of critical circumstances. Some of them could be reasons like childbirth, treatment for anaemia, critical injuries in accidents, car crashes, severe burns, treatment for cancer and so on. In this perspective, the blood banks play a vital role and save millions of lives every year.

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