Hospitals impacted by blood warnings


Published: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 12:27 a.m.
ATLANTA - Hospitals in Georgia and northern Florida were warned Friday to temporarily stop using some blood from the American Red Cross because it was feared contaminated with mysterious white particles.
The Red Cross reported that the particles are not infectious agents and that no harmful effects in patients have been reported.
The blood problem hasn't affected the Alachua County area, said Karen Rhodenizer, director of corporate affairs at LifeSouth Community Blood Centers.
The affected blood was supplied by the American Red Cross. But all blood from Bradford County west to Citrus County is supplied by LifeSouth, Rhodenizer said.
Also, officials are investigating whether the bag that holds the blood is a factor, according to a statement released by the American Red Cross Southern Region Friday afternoon.
LifeSouth, which uses different bags than the Red Cross, has checked its blood inventory and has found no evidence of the problem.
LifeSouth has branches in Georgia, Florida and Alabama, Rhodenizer said. Some of their centers in the Gainesville, Ga., and Atlanta areas will send blood to the affected hospitals.
"Some hospitals used to having 200 units of blood have only nine units right now," Rhodenizer said.
The particles probably came from the plastic bags in which the blood was collected, said Chris Hrouda, Red Cross chief executive for blood services in the Southern region.
The Red Cross said that so far, 110 of the approximately 4,000 units stored at its regional center have been found to be contaminated. But the agency was unable to say whether any contaminated blood reached any of the more than 140 hospitals it supplies in Georgia and northern Florida.
Members of the Georgia Hospital Association were advised not to use the blood, forcing them to postpone elective surgery and use backup supplies of blood for emergencies. The association consists of 185 hospitals, but not all of them get blood from the Red Cross.
The Red Cross said it is working with a maker of blood bags and the Food and Drug Administration to find out how the contamination happened.
Hrouda said that only blood in bags manufactured by Baxter International Inc. was contaminated. Baxter did not immediately return calls for comment.
The contaminant can be seen with the naked eye and is practically translucent, said Dr. Christopher D. Hillyer, an Emory University professor who works with the Red Cross. He said the blood could still turn out to be usable.
"We're taking more of a cautious approach and putting the blood on hold," said Kevin Bloye, a spokesman with the Georgia Hospital Association. "For some of our hospitals without a large supply of blood in reserve, that's a big problem."
"Blood is available for emergency surgeries," said Marcy Blount, spokeswoman for the Red Cross Blood Services Southern region. "We are asking hospitals not to use some of the blood in their inventories while we are having a quality assurance review."
Emory University Hospital expected to receive blood from outside the region by the afternoon, spokesman Brad Minor said.
"It hasn't affected any patient care," Minor said. "We've basically rescheduled our surgeries so the ones that don't require blood are in the morning and the ones that do are in the afternoon."
He added: "We deal with blood shortages all the time, so it's nothing new to us."
Sun staff writer Kathy Ciotola contributed to this report.

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