How the National Blood Shortage May Impact Patient Care, Outcomes

Jennifer Andrews, MD, pediatric hematologist-oncologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and medical director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s blood bank, discusses how a national blood shortage could affect patient care and outcomes.

Pharmacy Times interviewed Jennifer Andrews, MD, a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the medical director of the blood bank, on the national blood shortage in the United States. As the national inventory was beginning to recover toward the end of this summer, COVID-19 cases began to significantly increase as a result of the Delta variant, directly impacting donor turnout.

During the discussion, Andrews addressed how a national blood shortage could affect patient care and outcomes.

Jennifer Andrews: I think it's pretty obvious to your audience that blood is really irreplaceable. There's no alternatives, for example, in the pharmacy that you can give a patient instead of a blood product.

So, really this could quickly affect patient care. Just a few weeks ago, we actually ran out of blood on one of our shelves, which I've never seen happen in more than 10 years of practice. What it meant that day is that my liver transplant surgeon couldn't accept a liver for a patient who badly needed a transplant because that patient unfortunately would probably have a lot of bleeding, and we just couldn't support that amount of bleeding that particular day in our hospital.

So really, this directly affects patients and could lead to life-threatening complications, if a surgeon has to put off a needed surgery, or a hematologist, like myself, needs to put off a transfusion. Oftentimes, we're taking care of patients who can't wait for a transfusion so we try to prioritize those patients in our hospital system who really need the transfusion that particular day while we wait for our blood supply to be replenished from the American Red Cross.