Is the blood supply in the United States safe?

faq-2The blood supply in the United States is much safer today than ever before. The risk of HIV transmission has been nearly eliminated and the risk of hepatitis transmission greatly reduced thanks to multiple levels of safeguards, including:

  • comprehensive evaluation of donors’ medical and social history to exclude donors who may be carriers of infectious agents;
  • physical examination of the donor;
  • strict donation procedures using sterile supplies; and
  • laboratory testing.

These procedures are followed by all blood centers nationwide and are monitored under the regulatory guidance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Only volunteers are permitted to donate blood, and there are no incentives to give. Studies prove that community volunteers are the safest source of blood for transfusion. Every donor completes a health history questionnaire and screening interview to identify behaviors that indicate a high risk for carrying blood borne disease. Strict confidentiality, as well as the absence of incentives or pressure to donate, encourage honest answers and deferral of any potential donor with possible health risks.

Every time someone donates blood, his or her blood is tested for evidence of infectious disease, including hepatitis B and C; HIV 1 and 2; HTLV I and II; and syphilis. The donor’s blood type also is determined. Any unit of blood that shows evidence of carrying a disease is discarded and the donor is deferred from subsequent donation.

How much blood is given to a typical patient in need?

faq-3Major Reasons Patients Need Blood

  • Cancer
  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • Disease of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Emergencies such as car accidents and burns


Automobile Accident
50 units of blood

Heart Surgery
6 units of blood
6 units of platelets

Organ Transplant
40 units of blood
30 units of platelets
20 bags of cryoprecipitate
25 units of fresh frozen plasma

Bone Marrow Transplant
120 units of platelets
20 units of blood

20 units of platelets

What is the difference between red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets?

faq-1Blood Cells are Produced in Bone Marrow

Red cells, white cells and platelets are made in the marrow of bones, especially the vertebrae, ribs, hips, skull and sternum.

Plasma Carries Blood Cells

Plasma is a pale yellow mixture of water, proteins and salts. One of the functions of plasma is to act as a carrier for blood cells, nutrients, enzymes and hormones.

Red Cells Deliver Oxygen

Red cells are disc-shaped cells containing hemoglobin, which enables the cells to pick up and deliver oxygen to all parts of the body.

White Cells Defend the Body

White cells are the body’s primary defense against infection. They can move out of the blood stream and reach tissues being invaded.

Platelets Help Control Bleeding

Platelets are small cells in the blood that control bleeding. They form clusters to plug small holes in blood vessels and assist in the clotting process.