Blood Transfusion
EDP column by Dr Ketan Dhatariya

“I want to give blood, how do I go about finding out what blood group I am and how to donate?"

Giving blood is probably one of the best things you can do to help others. Blood was found to be pumped around the body by William Harvey in 1628, and the first attempt at transfusing blood took place in 1665 using animals. Humans were transfused with blood soon after but it was soon realised that people were dying as a result. It was in 1900 that the Viennese doctor, Dr Karl Landsteiner, eventually discovered the 4 blood groups. He was rightly awarded the Nobel Prize for this.

The 4 main blood groups are O, the most common and so the one in most demand, A, B, and AB. People from different regions of the world can have different blood groups. Examples of this are that South American Indians have group O, while about 25% of Asians are group B. Only about 9% of Caucasians have blood group O, but most Scandinavians have group A. Most people in Norfolk will have group O or A.

Blood contains red cells – responsible for carrying oxygen around the body, white cells – these fight infections, platelets that help the blood to clot and the fluid part of the blood, plasma that contains lots of other products.

When donated, the blood is separated into several different components and each is used for different things. The red cells are used to help people who are anaemic or who are bleeding. Platelets are used to help people who have treatment for leukaemia or bone marrow failure. Some of the other important parts in the plasma are used to help people who have clotting disorders and to replace the proteins they do not have – such as Factor VIII in haemophilia.

Unfortunately, only about 5% of the population gives blood, and at any one time there are only about 10 days worth of blood available. To maintain these levels it is important that if you have donated before and are invited to do so again, that you keep your appointment, and if you want to donate for the first time, then call the National Blood Transfusion Service on 08457 711 711 and arrange an appointment at your local donation session. The nurses will take a small finger prick sample to find out if you are anaemic. If you are not, and you fulfil the criteria to give blood, then they will go ahead. After a few weeks, you should get a card, telling you your blood group and from then on you will be invited to give blood every few months.

For more information about Blood Transfusions click this link: