What Is a Hospital Blood Bank?

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  • Written By: Debra Barnhart
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 01 February 2020
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A hospital blood bank is the department of a hospital that houses blood and blood components for patient use. Blood is needed by patients for a variety of different reasons. Hospital blood banks are responsible for ensuring that blood is properly stored and for matching the blood on hand to patient requirements. The demand for blood and blood components is high, so donations of blood are always essential.

Frequently part of the hospital lab, the hospital blood bank is vital to rapid delivery of blood for patients requiring emergency transfusions due to traumas, such as car accidents. Blood is also needed for patients having planned surgeries as well as for patients with chronic diseases like leukemia. Some hospitals collect and test blood, but most rely on blood collection agencies such as the Red Cross and other community agencies for their supply.

Blood from collection agencies usually arrives at the hospital blood bank with the proper testing completed. All blood must be typed A, B or O and tested for rhesus (Rh) status. Rh status refers to a protein present on red blood cells. The blood must also be screened for the presence of diseases, such as hepatitis B and C, HIV, human T-cell lymphotropic virus, syphilis and West Nile virus. Some diseases like malaria cannot be found in the testing process, so patient health histories are essential to collecting viable blood for transfusion.


A hospital blood bank conducts tests to match blood and blood components to patient needs and requirements. The proper storage of blood and blood components is also the responsibility of the hospital blood bank. Blood components like red blood cells, platelets, plasma and granulocytes, which are a type of white blood cell, have different storage requirements and shelf lives. For example, red blood cells typically must be used within 42 days after a donation.

A blood loss of 40% can be fatal, and even lower levels of blood loss can be life-threatening as well, depending on the condition of the patient. The victim of a car crash can use as much as 100 pints (47 liters) of blood. Adult humans have between 3.5 quarts (about 3 liters) and 5.5 quarts (about 5 liters) of blood in their bodies.

According to the American Red Cross, which is responsible for about 40% of the US blood supply, a blood transfusion or blood product is required by someone in the US every two seconds. Blood cannot be made synthetically so donors are always needed. Donating blood usually takes an hour or less.



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