U.S. experiencing shortage of blood products

June 22, 2021

A rise in the number of trauma cases, organ transplants, and elective surgeries requiring blood products over recent months has depleted the nation’s blood inventory, according to the American Red Cross.

“The Red Cross is currently experiencing a severe blood shortage,” Chris Hrouda, President of Red Cross Biomedical Services, said in a news release. “Our teams are working around the clock to meet the extraordinary blood needs of hospitals and patients  —  distributing about 75,000 more blood products than expected over the past three months to meet demand  but we can’t do it without donors. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood.”

On June 21, 32% of blood centers had 1 day or less of blood products available, while 34% had 1-2 days available, and 5% had 3 or more days available, according to America’s Blood Centers, which also said 29% of blood centers did not report their blood-supply status. The information was based on 59 centers.

The Red Cross said the shortage of blood products is caused by several factors. First, hospitals are responding to an atypically high number of traumas and emergency room visits. In comparison to 2019, the Red Cross said it has seen red cell demand from hospitals with trauma centers climb by 10% in 2021  more than five times the growth of other facilities that provide transfusions.

Second, there is great hospital demand for blood as patients who previously deferred care during the COVID-19 pandemic present with more advanced disease progression, requiring increased blood transfusions, the Red Cross said.

“Some hospitals are being forced to slow the pace of elective surgeries until the blood supply stabilizes, delaying crucial patient care. As we return to pre-pandemic activities and resume travel to visit loved ones, we want people to remember the needs of patients this summer and the power so many of us have to help save lives,” Hrouda added.

With less than half a day supply available of type O blood in recent weeks, there is an emergency need for type O donors. Type O is the most needed blood group by hospitals. Type O positive is the most transfused blood type and can be transfused to Rh-positive patients of any blood type. Type O negative is the universal blood type and what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations.

There is also an emergency need for platelets, the clotting portion of blood, which must be transfused within five days of donation. Nearly half of all platelet donations are given to patients undergoing cancer treatments.

Visit the American Red Cross for more news