The risk of the most seriously ill patients at Central Lancashire's hospitals needing a blood transfusion has been reduced - by taking less blood from them for testing.
The volume of blood required for the most common test carried out on inpatients at the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals has been almost halved - even though the number of samples has remained the same.
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The reduction follows a successful trial which found that patients could also be spared complications like anaemia by having less blood taken from them.
Patients needing a urea and electrolytes test - commonly known as a U&E - now have to give only 4ml of blood, compared to the standard 7.5ml. An average of 700 inpatients require the test every day across the two hospitals.
The change was made possible by the installation of new equipment which can process different sizes of tube at the same time.
“Some of these inpatients might be having their blood taken three times a day, because they might have to be monitored very closely,” Maria Burn, a biomedical scientist at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, said.
“If they stay 10 days, we could be taking over 200ml from them and although your body does regenerate the blood, you're really not helping by taking volumes like that.
“We’ve got evidence from our critical care consultants that there are patients who haven’t needed blood transfusions as a direct result of reducing the volume of blood we are taking,” Maria added.
The smaller tubes are also expected to be rolled out for inpatients needing a full blood count. However, outpatients will still have to give the standard amount of blood, because of the range of tests usually being carried out on their samples.
It is also hoped that the new testing regime could prevent some patients from becoming anaemic.
“Patients in critical care come in with conditions which cause their blood levels to be quite low anyway,” Kelly Fielding, clinical educator in critical care, explained.
“It could also help those long-term patients who are not acutely unwell - but who could be made anaemic, because we are taking a little bit of blood every single day over a couple of months.
“”And if we’re not having to transfuse, then we are saving blood and not wiping out a potential donor who wouldn't be allowed to give blood once they have received it,” Kelly said.
The trial revealed the potential to take 115 litres less blood over a six-month period.
The trust’s lead biomedical scientist, Tim McIlwaine, said smaller sample sizes could become the norm everywhere.
“It seems quite common sense and we now have the technology which allows us to do it - but you’ve got to have the initiative and the will to make it happen,” Tim said.