The majority of heart surgeries performed on children less than 2 years of age use blood components instead of whole blood. Whole blood is now being recommended rather than these components by researchers from the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.

The study

A team of researchers reported in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery that whole blood was a better choice for surgical patients who were twenty four months of age or younger.

The analysis that helped the researchers come to this conclusion was done on four thousand one hundred and eleven patients.

Of the four thousand one hundred and eleven patients, two hundred fifty two of them received blood components during their heart surgery while three thousand eight hundred and thirty six of the children were given whole blood during their procedures.

Component Blood

Whole blood is not made readily available from blood banks because they separate the blood they are given to get component blood. These component bloods include blood parts such as red blood cells, platelets and plasma. The component blood is comprised of blood parts from multiple donors instead of blood from one donor like you get when you use whole blood.

Transfusion Reactions Greater with blood components

When blood components are used instead of whole blood the number of adverse transfusion reactions increases. The most common transfusion reactions are allergic and febrile reactions. Patients can have more serious reactions like acute lung injury, and some patients may be exposed to infectious diseases from the donors.

Associated benefits of Using Whole Blood in Pediatric Heart Surgery

These small patients are exposed to fewer long term repercussions when they are given transfusions made up of whole blood rather than blood components. When these children are exposed to long term illnesses because of exposure to blood components from multiple donors, they have to live with these repercussions for their entire life, and the length of their lives, may be reduced, while the quality of their lives will most assuredly be made worse.

Problems Associated with Whole Blood Usage

In order for a greater number of children to receive the whole blood from one individual rather than component blood from several donors, there will have to be increased communication between the thoracic surgery departments at hospitals and the blood banks.

If the surgical teams who schedule the procedures could let the blood banks know of the upcoming procedure, then the blood bank could save whole blood for a period of up to 48 hours for the surgery.

A lack of communication and cooperation results in less availability of whole blood for these procedures.

More blood donors would need to be found so fresh supplies of blood could be kept on hand for these young patients. The family members of the patient who have the same blood type could provide the blood, so their little ones could get whole blood rather than component blood.