Rumour: In emergency settings, there is often a shortage of universal blood for transfusions.

Truth: This is true. According to a new study published in The Lancet Hematology, researchers found that the supply of universal blood for individuals with rare blood types is often decreased. Normally, in emergency situations patients who have an unknown blood type are giving universal blood transfusions until their blood type can be determined. This is done in order to reduce the risk of having a reaction to an incompatible blood type. Unfortunately, this means that universal blood is often in shortage in emergency settings. It has been found that only 6 to 8% of the entire blood donor population falls under the category of a universal blood donor; the remaining 92 to 94% of blood donors do not have universal blood types, so their blood type must match the blood type of the recipient receiving the transfusion.
In this study, researchers looked at emergency room patients and the blood type of the transfusions they received.  Researchers analyzed the number of emergency room patients receiving blood transfusions, and how many received blood transfusions with incompatible blood types as a result of universal blood shortage. As well, they also look that any reactions that occurred in these patients as a result of blood transfusion with an incompatible blood type. Researchers found that out of a total of 437 emergency room patients who is blood types were initially unknown 20% received a blood transfusion with an incompatible blood type. As well, it was also found that a number of these patients developed antibody formation as a result of receiving an incompatible blood type. Read more about blood type transfusions here.

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