German Medical Alert on Blood
THE progress of medical science has usually led to increasing effectiveness with medical treatments. However, the longer doctors work with and note the results of blood transfusions, the more problems and dangers they discover.
This was highlighted in a lengthy article published in the German newspaper Die Welt (December 9, 1974). It said:
“‘Blood should be considered a dangerous medicine, and should be used with the same caution as, for example, morphine.’ With these forceful words Professor H. Busch, Director of the Department of Transfusion Medicine at Hamburg’s University Clinics, ended his report on the errors and dangers of blood transfusions, delivered to the 114th convention of North German Surgeons. . . .
“The transfusing of blood carries immunological, metabolic and infectious risks. Any of these three dangers can produce very serious, even fatal, results. . . . Blood contains an immunological individuality expressed in inherited and unchanging characteristics of the blood corpuscles and of the serum. Additionally, the Rhesus and other blood group factors distinguish the blood of each individual. Irregular antibodies, substances produced by sensitization when foreign matter entered the circulatory system, are additional factors that distinguish between different blood.
“Whenever the immunological characteristics of the donor’s blood and the recipient’s blood differ, the recipient’s organism responds to the donor’s blood with incompatibility reactions. Therefore detailed serological blood tests of the donor and the recipient must be made.
“The responsibility for the safeness of a blood transfusion lies finally with the doctor prescribing it. He, however, is only one link in a chain of workers. . . . Errors in handling and commonplace oversights can never be ruled out completely even when the most careful attention is given to all safety rules. The transfusing doctor could catch possible mistakes beforehand by making the so-called crossmatch test as well as carefully checking all the records before giving the transfusion.
“However, according to an inquiry made of hospitals in northern Germany, the safety measures demanded for transfusions by the Federal Board of Physicians cannot be met in every hospital nor in every instance. Lack of personnel and excessive demands on surgeons doing night duty partially account for this. Consequently, the otherwise avoidable immunological risk still remains for the blood recipient.
“The metabolic risk includes a complex of dangers resulting from the stored blood’s aging and its breakdown. . . . In order to minimize the metabolic risk, freshly donated blood is increasingly being used for transfusions. But one thus faces a risk of infection because syphilis, undiscovered in the donor, can be transmitted if the blood has not been stored for the usual 72 hours. . . . There is also the risk of being infected with hepatitis. . . . Other risks of disease through blood transfusions are malaria and Cytomegalie virus infection, which is especially dangerous for children.”
With good reason did the surgeons call for a “stringent medical alert.” Many qualified surgeons in various parts of the earth choose careful surgical techniques that minimize blood loss and so avoid any apparent need for transfused blood.