They recorded the use of nearly 10,000 units of red blood cells from all NHS hospital blood banks in the north of England. More than half (52%) of all units were given to medical patients, 41% to surgical patients, and 6% to obstetric and gynaecology patients.
Demand for blood transfusion increases with age. The average age of a patient receiving an individual unit of blood in this study was 63 years.
Using these figures of current patterns of red cell use and applying them to future population predictions, the authors calculate that regional demand will increase by 2% in 2003 and 5% in 2008.
Such data are vital to help in planning effective and efficient use of the available blood supply, say the authors. Especially as the introduction of donor testing for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease could have a major impact on the numbers of blood donors, with estimates that up to 50% of active donors could be lost.
Small increases in the number of elderly people will have large effects on demand, add the authors. Efforts to reduce red cell use will need to be directed at medical as well as surgical patients, they conclude.