SAINT PAUL, Minn. - There is no doubt blood transfusions can save lives. But growing research shows they can be overused.
So Regions Hospital in Saint Paul and the American Red Cross have created a partnership that prevents unnecessary use, while keeping patient safety a top priority.
Charlie Rios' is a perfect example. Daily life and work did a number on the Little Canada resident's knees.
Rios, who worked 44 years in the construction business and played football, said, "I got to the point where I couldn't climb the stairs. I couldn't live. I couldn't do ladders, so the pain was really terrible."
Rios had a double knee replacement last January, and despite it being major surgery, he wasn't given an ounce of blood.
Dr. Gary Bachowski, clinical pathologist for the American Red Cross said, "We're trying to use blood effectively so it's used in the best way to treat the patients and it also preserves blood supply for patients who need it most."
The American Red Cross and Region's Hospital are working together to prevent unnecessary blood transfusions, turning around traditional thought that more blood is good.
Dr. Zena Khalil, a pathologist with Regions said, "Studies have shown that patients who receive blood products, more than is really necessary, they have a longer stay in the hospital, they are prone to infections and they are prone to multiple complications."
So how effective has the project been?
Since 2011, Regions said it has decreased blood use by 14 percent and 1,131 patient transfusions were avoided.
It also said Rios' orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Gavin Pittman, used to give 20 percent of his patients blood transfusions. Now it's down to five percent.
Khalil said of Pittman's department, "They have dropped usage of blood yet their patient population is still doing well and even doing better."
Rios, recovered so quickly from knee surgery, he fit in a shoulder surgery this year too.
His knees no longer slow him down.
Rios said, "I feel great."
Even with reducing blood transfusion rates, the American Red Cross still needs plenty of donors.
There are still shortages. Plus, some patients need an exact match and the larger the blood supply, the greater chance of that happening.
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