Inova Bloodmobile (via Inova Blood Donor Services/Facebook)

Local blood supplies have reached critically low levels, creating a potential crisis with hospitals operating at maximum capacity, Inova Health Systems reports.

The dangers of this imbalance between supply and demand became painfully clear last week, when the nonprofit health care system drained its Type B supplies and had to switch to Type O blood in order to stabilize one patient, according to an Inova spokesperson, who described the current need for blood donors as “urgent.”

The patient suffered significant blood loss that triggered a massive transfusion protocol (MTP), requiring medical workers to literally run units of blood, plasma, and platelets from a blood bank to the emergency room, explains Heather Wade, the donor recruitment manager for Inova Blood Donor Services.

“As clinicians, we strive to provide patients with their blood type,” Wade said. “It’s a matter of overall safety, but when that supply has been diminished, we then need to revert to caring for the patient with Type O blood product.”

Inova is seeking donors of all blood types, but it is especially in need of Type B and O blood.

As of Thursday (Oct. 14), Inova was completely out of both B-negative and AB-negative blood, with just 10 of the 90 B-positive units needed in stock, according to its red blood cell inventory.

Supplies are low in part because Type B blood is rare, comprising only about 10% of the U.S. population, according to the American Red Cross.

Type O blood is particularly valuable, because O-negative can be used for all patients. O-positive blood can help about 84% of patients and is carried by Fairfax, Arlington, and Loudoun county emergency responders for on-site transfusions, Wade says.

Inova currently has just 46 available units of O-positive blood and 68 units of O-negative blood.

Inova’s red blood cell supply inventory as of Oct. 14, 2021 (via Inova Blood Donor Services)

Wade says Inova needs about 200 blood donations per day to maintain a sufficient, stable inventory to support the 4.5 million people it serves in Northern Virginia, Maryland, and D.C..

“The actual donation takes 15 minutes, and it can save three lives in our community,” Wade said. “Whether you donated in Sterling and the patient’s in Alexandria, Virginia, you’re helping someone in our Northern Virginia area.” Read More

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