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The risks of transfusions

A growing number of people in the medical community are questioning how blood transfusions are used in the United States, and are concluding that, for many patients, the risks can outweigh the benefits. Dozens of studies suggest transfusions are linked to serious health risks, including cancer recurrence, organ failure and the significant long-term impact donated blood can have on the recipient’s immune system.

In an effort to cut down on those potential risks and conserve donated blood for when it’s most clearly needed, about 100 hospitals in the United States have established blood management programs. These programs are designed to reduce the need for transfusions by making sure a patient’s blood is as healthy as possible before and after surgery, and by conserving a patient’s own blood during surgery.

The August 20th episode of Need to Know features an in-depth segment about the practice of blood transfusions in the United States.