The Problem with Transfusions

New research suggests that banked blood may lack a key, lifesaving ingredient

Keith Brofsky / Getty

The longer blood is stored, the more risk it might pose to a patient who receives it.

it's been called the gift of life, and for the 5 million people in the U.S. who receive blood transfusions each year, it's a gift gratefully accepted. But what if banked blood, always a beacon of hope and health, may also do serious harm?

That's a possibility that doctors have been wrestling with for several years, as studies have shown a disturbing spike in heart attacks--as much as 25%--and even deaths in patients who have received blood, usually within a month after the transfusion. The problem may occur to some degree in almost every group of critically ill patients, from trauma...

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