Aachen Urgently Needs Blood

17/08/2018
Two women at the blood donation center Copyright: Peter Winandy

The Blood Donation Center at Aachen University Hospital is calling for more blood.  

 

Aachen University Hospital often asks for blood. "Hardly any university hospital can completely supply itself with blood components independently. However, the acquisition of blood from blood banks is limited. As a result, we have to rely on help from the people of Aachen," states senior physician, Dr. Klaus Strathmann from the Institute of Transfusion Medicine.

Many medical interventions, such as operations and cancer treatments, are only possible when enough human blood is available. 80 percent of all Germans need a blood donation or medication derived from blood plasma at least once in their life. Approximately 15,000 blood and 5,000 plasma units enter the operating room daily in Germany. "Sometimes a patient needs 50 or more units after an accident so that he can be saved," says the physician.

Blood is the Essence of Life

Blood is made up of cellular components, broken down into red and while blood cells and blood platelets, as well as a fluid component, blood plasma. Blood supplies the human body with nutrients and oxygen. Furthermore, it equally distributes heat in the body. The transport of hormones and messenger substances also serves as a way of distributing information. Specialized cells in the blood defend against pathogenic agents and help heal wounds. "We are not yet able to replace blood with another liquid or material," explains Strathmann.

To donate blood, one must be at least 18 years old and healthy and weigh at least 50 kilograms. Those who donate blood for the first time must be below 61 years of age. Donors should also have one to one and half hours of spare time. Before every blood donation, a blood panel is conducted and blood pressure and temperature are taken. Then donors speak with a doctor. "We have very high quality standards in Germany when it comes to producing blood components. This starts with questioning and examining the blood donor," emphasizes the transfusion expert.

The donor is informed of the possible risks and side effects, such as a blue bruise due to a vein puncture or possible circulatory issues. "It's extremely rare, but we have to mention it," reports Strathmann. It is important to prepare before giving blood – drinking at least one to two liters of water or juice and eating something light is recommended.

Blood Check for Donors

The actual process of donating blood does not take longer than 15 minutes. The body regulates itself afterwards relatively quickly: circulation returns to normal within a few minutes, fluids balance within two hours, plasma protein replacement takes two days, red blood cells replace themselves within two weeks, and after about two months, iron levels are back to normal. Women can donate up to four times a year and men up to six.

If too many white blood cells are found in the blood sample, it may be a sign of an infection. The donor won't be allowed to donate blood until his health status has been cleared. Strathmann: "We are required to inform individuals if their results don't fall within a normal range."

If everything is ok, then the donor heads to the blood donation room, where he is greeted by the reception team. They start to take blood after he makes himself comfortable on the cot. Every bag lies on an automated scale that stops teetering once the bag is filled with approximately 450 mililiters of blood. A sample is then tested for HIV, Hepatitis B or C, and syphilis. Every file is scanned and digitalized – including the donor information, bag system, and sample cannulas. Legally, all of the data related to procuring a blood unit must be archived for 30 years

Donations Can Be Quickly Used

Treatments for most patients only require certain components of the blood. Donated blood is separated into blood cells and plasma in a centrifuge. "What is donated today, is typically ready for a patient the next morning, because we have established quick logistics, particularly for diagnosing infections," explains Strathmann. There are units of blood in the blood bank, but their shelf life is limite: Red blood cell concentrate can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 35 days. Blood platelets can be stored at room temperature for up to four days starting the day of the donation. Plasma is frozen and can be stored for up to two years at negative 30 degrees Celsius.

In order to fill its reserves, the Blood Donation Center often undertakes different measures to raise awareness

Please note that you don't need to go to Uniklinik to give blood – there are also regular blood drives held at various other locations (see link below).

Source: Press and Communications

Blood Donation Center at Uniklinik RWTH Aachen

Uniklinik Main Building
Elevator C6 or B6, 3 floor, hallway 48
Pauwelsstraße 30, 52074 Aachen

Opening Hours

Monday, Wednesday and Thursday: 12:30 to 7:30pm
Tuesday:11:30am to 7pm
Friday: 7:30am to 12:30pm