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Small Animal Blood Bank Saves Lives at NC State University’s Veterinary Health and Wellness Center

The following is an article from the Blood Bank Quarterly (link no longer available) newsletter produced by the Small Animal Blood Bank in the NC State University Veterinary Health and Wellness Center.

Vet technicians Jennifer Myron (left), Lyndy Harden, and blood donor Piper.

Many people ask us once a donation is collected “what happens to the blood now?”

There are several things that can happen to that donation depending on hospital patient needs. The first type of blood product that can be used is called fresh whole blood (FWB). This is a fresh unit that has just recently been collected from the donor. It has a short life span of just 24 hours and usually goes straight from the donor and to the recipient. This product contains all blood elements such as red blood cells, platelets, clotting factors, and plasma proteins.

FWB is generally used in emergency situations when the recipient is actively bleeding with an acute blood volume loss of greater than 25%. FWB provides blood volume expansion, increased oxygen carrying capacity, protein source, and clotting factors. Once FWB has aged past 24 hours (in proper storage) it then becomes whole blood or stored whole blood. This product no longer has the platelets and coagulation factors as FWB had since they start to diminish as the blood ages. Depending on the blood preservative used this product has a shelf life of 21 to 35 days.

The most common products used in the hospital are packed red blood cells and fresh frozen plasma. These are two products that you obtain when you spin down the fresh whole blood in a special centrifuge. The packed red blood cells, or PRBC, still assist in restoring oxygen capacity to the recipient but with less of the blood volume expansion that whole blood has. This can be used for patients who are anemic but have a normal blood volume. Once the whole blood is centrifuged it causes the separation of the red blood cells from the plasma so we can extract the plasma into an adjoining satellite bag.

This product is now called fresh frozen plasma or FFP since it is frozen at -18 C. The FFP is then good for one year with proper freezer storage. FFP contains all the coagulation factors and plasma proteins. This product can be used for patients with clotting disorders for any reason, heat stroke, parvoviral enteritis, extremely low albumin levels, and as a volume expander. Fresh plasma can be used in conjunction with the PRBC and will provide most of the same benefits as Fresh Whole Blood. Once the FFP ages past one year it is then considered plain plasma and stored in the freezer at -18 C for an additional four years. The plasma can be used to treat some clotting disorders and as a blood volume expander. One of the most unusual uses of the frozen plasma is to give to newborn kittens to provide them with much needed antibodies.

The last product is a platelet-rich plasma that is used for a patient that is having clotting issues. The product is centrifuged off the fresh whole blood donation and stored at room temperature up to five days while being gently rocked back and forth to prevent the platelets from clumping together. This year our canine and feline donors have saved multiple lives through their generosity and life-saving blood. One donation has the potential to impact four different lives!

[section_subtitle] Note: [/section_subtitle]
The Small Animal Blood Bank is recruiting dogs that are one to five years old and 50 pounds or more with an easy-going temperament to participate in the blood donor program.  Donor candidates receive an in-depth, comprehensive a health screening to determine eligibility.

Participating dogs then donate blood once every two months for two years. A brief physical exam is performed before each collection to ensure the donor’s good state of good health. Blood is then collected from a single venipuncture and the entire procedure takes under an hour. Program benefits include free annual vaccinations.