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Alabama hospitals seeing increase in trauma patients amid nationwide blood shortage

Gunshot wounds putting major strain on blood supplies
Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 11:35 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - UAB’s emergency rooms are seeing more trauma patients and it is happening during a time when blood supply is critically low nationwide.

Doctors with UAB’s Trauma Center said they are on track to treat 1,200 gunshot wounds this year. In 2013, they only treated around 600. They are seeing an increase in gunshot victims, but also an increase in trauma victims overall. Officials said trauma cases can be high blood loss situations.

“We have people that sometimes go through 40 to 50 units of blood product,” UAB’s Chief of Trauma services, Dr. Daniel Cox, said. “It is almost weekly that we are giving somebody over 20 units of product as we are stabilizing them and doing surgery to control bleeding.”

Cox said UAB’s blood supply changes on a daily basis and they have to stay in constant communication with their blood bank team. Overall, he said supply is so low, without more donors, it could eventually get to the point where they don’t have blood to give patients who need it.

“While it hasn’t happened that we have ever run out,” Cox said. “That is the risk and what scares us. We are at a point where there is a national critical shortage of bloody supply at the same time as exponential increase in traumatic injuries.”

Without a large amount of blood on the shelves, Cox said in heavy trauma cases, they may have to borrow it from other hospitals and delay other patient’s surgeries.

“We have had critical shortages where it can impact our ability to do elective surgeries.” he said. “We have had to delay elective care to preserve an adequate blood supply for potential emergency situations.”

But, UAB isn’t the only Alabama hospital facing this problem.

“Major blood supply for Alabama hospitals have less than two days of supply of blood on the shelves,” Dr. Don Williamson with the Alabama Hospital Association said. “That is a very critical level.”

It isn’t just an increase in gunshot victims or scheduled surgeries that have hospitals worried about the low supply.

“As we are in the holiday season, we continue to worry about motor vehicle accidents and people needing large amounts of blood and it not being available,” Williamson said.

Doctors begging for more blood donors to help keep up with the increase in patients in emergency rooms.

“We never want to have that situation where someone has a salvageable injury and we don’t have the tools and the blood supply needed,” Cox said.

Williamson said they need anyone who can to donate blood, but the especially need O positive and O negative, because it is universal and can be used in emergency rooms and trauma centers.

Click here to find a donation site near you.

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