Blood is life. Access to blood is vital especially in cases of emergencies such as natural disasters or armed conflicts, and every day all around the world, donors unselfishly help to ensure that safe and sufficient blood supplies are available. Today is World Blood Donor Day and the PVCMed Alliance wants to encourage people around the globe to give blood.
The technology and innovations behind storage of blood also have its importance. Today’s blood bags are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a material that greatly improved the safety, storage and transportation of blood. It makes no doubt that PVC outperforms glass containers that were used to store blood in the past.
Just imagine the difference in robustness between PVC and glass. It’s a question about life-and-death. Imagine a container with a rare blood type falling on the floor in an emergency situation. If the container is made of glass it will shatter, leaving the patient without the vital blood. The PVC container remains intact.
The robustness of PVC blood bags first proved its worth during the Korean War, saving the lives of thousands of soldiers. Today drones deliver blood in areas with poor road infrastructure, for instance in remote places in Rwanda. This is only possible because PVC blood bags can withstand being dropped from the air. See how in the video below.
The management of the blood life from the donor to the patient is a critical part of the process, and here again PVC’s properties are unsurpassed. PVC blood bags ensure a shelf life of 42 days, which is crucial especially for rare blood types. These blood bags have also improved cancer patients’ chances of survival by enabling doctors to separate platelets from blood during chemotherapy. PVC blood bags also allow for the highest sterilisation techniques and can even be frozen.
PVC has helped achieve medical breakthroughs. But, like all things, PVC blood bags are not perfect. Currently most of the PVC blood bags are made flexible using the phthalate DEHP. The next generation of PVC blood bags without phthalates of concern is just around the corner. Two of the PVCMed Alliance’s member companies have helped develop DEHP-free blood bags, which effectively meet the high standard criteria for collection and storage of blood. To find out more about these stories, read more here and here.
Both new plasticisers are set to be included in the revised European Pharmacopeia, which is expected to be published later this year. This will most likely cause a new breakthrough for PVC-based medical devices, as it is indeed possible to replace DEHP while keeping PVC’s unique technical properties and cost-effectiveness.