UNO Professor Finds Donated Blood Went Unused After Mass Shooting

A new study by a University of Nebraska-Omaha professor shows a spike in blood donations after the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting was more than hospitals needed. The donations were so much more that 17% of the blood donated, went unused. The study, co-authored by Justin Nix an assistant professor in the UNO School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and four colleagues, will be featured in the “Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery.”

Nix and his fellow researchers collected data from healthcare, public safety and law enforcement agencies for the study. The team learned that 500 units of blood were transfused the day of the shooting, with donors giving nearly 800 units of blood the day following the shooting. Roughly 17% of those units went unused, meaning the blood that hospitals needed was already on-hand and the public call for donations led to an influx of more than they could use.

Nix says that people wanting to help after a mass casualty event is a good thing, but that they found giving blood in that first day or two after the incident might not be the best approach. “The value of this study is that it gives us some insight into how communities can better handle these kinds of situations: encourage routine blood donation, provide training in hemorrhage control and develop a plan for the wave of blood donors that will step up to help, even if their blood may not be needed to help with that specific situation.”

Among other takeaways, the researchers recommend public officials hold off on encouraging blood donation after a crisis unless local blood suppliers approve the message. Nix says a better option for those wanting to donate immediately after a crisis is, "We need to think about how we're gonna respond to these incidents before they occur. Folks who maybe are inspired to go give blood after one of these shootings, maybe the hospital tells them, 'We're full and we don't need your donation,' Well let's have them scheduled to come back in a month." 

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