From Vein to Vein — The Journey of Donated Blood

In its most simple definition, blood is a constantly circulating fluid providing the body with nutrition, oxygen, and waste removal. Blood is one, if not the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person — the gift of life. When someone decides to donate blood, he/she can potentially save a life or even several.

A question was posed to the World Health Organization (WHO) -- “Why should I donate blood?” The answer could not be more clear. It responded back with “safe blood saves lives and improves health.” There is a constant need for regular blood supply because blood can be stored for only a limited time before use. Regular blood donations by healthy people are needed to ensure that safe blood will be available whenever and wherever it is needed.


Regular blood donations by healthy people are needed to ensure that safe blood will be available whenever and wherever it is needed.


According to the WHO, about 112.5 million blood donations are collected worldwide. Although most of us only encounter two stages of any given blood donation (the donation itself and if needed, a blood transfusion), the reality is that tracking donated blood and making sure that it gets to the right patients is a complicated process.

How Does Blood Donation Work

Every day, blood donors help patients of all ages. They suffer from a number of maladies -- accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those battling cancer, just to name a few. According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. There is a process of donating blood. You can’t just walk into a blood donation center or local blood drive and immediately give this precious gift.

Qualifications to Donate Blood

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Association of Blood Banks have established donor requirements in order to donate blood:
  • The donor must be over 18 years old or 17 years old with completed parental consent
  • The donor must weigh at least 110 lbs
  • The donor should have a healthy meal and drink plenty of fluids prior to donating
  • The donor should bring a valid photo ID

Unfortunately, there are a number of cases in which someone should NOT donate, which are also important to identify:
  • The donor is sick or not feeling well
  • Has donated blood in the past 8 weeks
  • Is pregnant
  • Has a bleeding disorder or blood disease
  • Traveled outside the United States to certain countries
  • Taking certain medications

(For more qualifications, Children’s Hospital LA has a great blood donor qualification checklist that can be helpful to see if you do or do not meet the standard donor requirements.)

Blood Types

Just like humans, not all blood is alike. Your blood type is inherited. Like eye color, blood type is passed genetically from your parents. Whether your blood group is type A, B, AB or O is based on the blood types of your mother and father.

According to the American Red Cross, blood types are determined by the presence or absence of certain antigens – substances that can trigger an immune response if they are foreign to the body.  Since some antigens can trigger a patient's immune system to attack the transfused blood, safe blood transfusions depend on careful blood typing and cross-matching.

O positive is the most common blood type. Type O is routinely in short supply and in high demand by hospitals – both because it is the most common blood type and because type O negative blood, in particular, is the universal blood type needed for emergency transfusions.

What Happens to Donated Blood

So you’ve met the qualifications and are now able to donate a very precious gift. Have you ever thought of what happens after your blood has been drawn? It doesn’t just go straight to a patient in need. There are a number of important steps that have to happen before your gift is shared.

Processing and Testing

The first thing that happens to your blood is that that is you are recorded in a donor database, which contains all the important information about yourself, medical history etc. Your blood is then labeled with a barcode that has your specific donor identification number. This number can be scanned and tracked right to you if it is ever lost or misplaced.

Next, the donated blood is tested. It’s spun in a device called a centrifuge, which separates the blood into transfusable components such as red cells, platelets, and plasma. Each component is packaged as a “unit” – which is a standard amount that doctors use when transfusing a patient.

After the blood has been packaged, it is then tested. About a dozen tests are performed on the blood to establish the blood type and the presence of any infectious diseases. All of this data is recorded and linked back to the individual barcode your blood was tagged with at the donation center. That data is accessible by medical professionals who may be looking for a specific blood type and can be found quickly and in real time. This is a similar process that many businesses implement called asset tracking.


Once the blood has been tested and is deemed usable or suitable for transfusion, it is stored. The American Red Cross Blood Services follows the following procedures for blood storage:
  • Red cells are stored in refrigerators at 6ºC for up to 42 days.
  • Platelets are stored at room temperature in agitators for up to five days.
  • Plasma and cryo are frozen and stored in freezers for up to one year.

Because the different blood components have different shelf lives, it’s imperative that the labels are matching to the individual donor and can be linked back to him/her at any time. Medical teams rely on the blood for their patients' needs, and they also rely on the team that is collecting and storing the blood to be sure that it matches the patient’s need and has been kept in the right storage conditions.


A sick and/or injured patient is being seen at a hospital or treatment center. They may have been in a serious accident, have a blood disorder or have sustained some other sort of trauma requiring additional blood. The attending physician makes the call if the patient is in need of blood to help their current condition. That’s when they determine if he/she needs to receive a blood transfusion.

A blood transfusion is defined as the process of receiving blood or blood products intravenously. This process can typically take between 1-4 hours. The patient’s blood will be tested before a transfusion to determine whether their blood type is A, B, AB or O and whether their blood is Rh positive or Rh negative. The donated blood used for each patient’s transfusion must be compatible with his/her blood type.

From there, the doctor can request the needed blood from the hospital’s blood bank. The blood banks have a full database of its donors and blood types readily available to help people in need.

Blood donation plays an important role in modern medicine. They move difficult surgical procedures into the realm of possibility and save lives following incidents of such bodily trauma that a patient is at risk of bleeding to death. When it comes to scenarios such as creating a database of blood donors and blood types, asset tracking and management software can make a mammoth task quick and easy. From hospitals to doctor’s offices to ambulances and EMS services, healthcare outlets have a staggering amount of devices, equipment, and other medical assets to track and manage.

Asset tracking technology is ensuring a more cost-effective way to track and manage all the parts and pieces necessary for patient care, including the donation, testing, storage and transfusion of blood. Asset Panda, the leader in asset tracking and management, features a healthcare asset management platform that makes it easy for medical facilities and their staff to manage patient records, locate medical equipment, access maintenance records, and ascertain the status of each piece of equipment in use. Designated users can scan each asset with a built-in barcode scanner to access full histories, generate reports, track maintenance schedules, or submit help tickets on every asset scanned in.

When every second matters, Asset Panda is the right partner to help deliver the best in patient care. To learn more, visit for a free 14-day trial.

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Audra London

Audra London, founder of Conceptual Communications, LLC, has over 10 years of writing, public relations and marketing experience and serves as an expert on press releases, media relations, feature writing, web content and marketing copy.

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