Results from two new surveys announced
today by The Coalition for Transfusion Safety, a new consortium dedicated to
elevating awareness of the need for safer blood transfusions, uncover
significant concerns about the safety of the US blood supply among the
general public and health professionals.
According to the survey of 502 adults, conducted by the Survey Research
Center of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan,
Inc., 84.3 percent of Americans are concerned about the safety of blood
transfusions today. Only eight percent of respondents would elect to receive
blood from the current supply, while an overwhelming 83 percent would prefer
autologous or directed donations.
Significantly, despite their reported concerns, less than half of the
respondents who had experience with blood transfusions said that they were
informed by their physicians about the risks of accidental infection. This
contrasted with a finding from the professional survey, conducted by the
American Opinion Research, which revealed that the majority of physician
respondents (nearly 75 percent) felt that they adequately advise patients on
the risks of acquiring an infectious disease through a transfusion.
"The disparity in responses between doctors and patients clearly reflects
the need for better counseling before administering blood transfusions,"
commented Frank Strobl, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pathology and
Laboratory Medicine, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. "This
means that doctors need more information on how to explain the risks involved
to patients so that people are clear on what to expect before they receive
With current screening methods, the average patient -- who is transfused
with five units of blood -- runs a one in 6,800 risk of being infected with
either HIV (the AIDS virus), hepatitis C, hepatitis B or human T-lymphotrophic
virus, which has been associated with T-cell leukemia and lymphoma. The risk
is much higher for people who receive frequent transfusions, such as those
with hemophilia or thalassemia, or large quantities of blood, as in organ
transplant and trauma situations. Surprisingly, when estimating risks, half
of patients surveyed made an accurate assessment of the risk of viral
infection from blood transfusion, while only a quarter of physicians estimated
the correct range (about one in 10,000).
"Compared to studies published by the Federal Aviation Administration, the
risk of receiving an infection from a blood transfusion is 1,000 times higher
than the risk of injury on a commercial airline," reported Dr. Strobl. When
confronted with this statistic, 93 percent of patient respondents agreed that
receiving a blood transfusion (an average of 5 units) should be at least as
safe as flying a commercial airline.
Perhaps the most striking finding was that over half of patient
respondents would pay $100-$1000 more, on top of the current cost of about
$100/unit of blood, to eliminate the risk of receiving infection from
transfusion. With newer technologies, safer blood products could become
available to patients who want a greater assurance of safety before undergoing
To respond to the need for information and education, The Coalition for
Transfusion Safety has recently launched a resource Web site
(www.transfusion.org) for both the general public and the medical
community. The site provides news, scientific abstracts, and events related
to both increasing both the volume of the blood supply and the safety of
receiving a blood transfusion. With American blood banks projecting to come
up short 250,000 units this year, the Coalition encourages Americans to pledge
a greater commitment to maintain a robust and high quality supply.
Marking the ten-year anniversary of Ryan White's death, his mother Jeanne,
spokeswoman for The Coalition of Transfusion Safety, remains an advocate for
blood safety. "Traditionally, the two main issues related to the blood supply
have been safety and availability," she said. "Therefore, our mission is
two-fold: to educate professionals and the public about the need to remain
committed to improving the safety of our country's blood, and to encourage the
public to donate blood to maintain an abundant supply."
For more information, please visit