Blood Facts

Blood is the circulating fluid that keeps the body functioning. It provides the supply of nutrients, removal of wastes as carbon dioxide, coagulation, transport of hormones, regulation of body temperature, supply of oxygen to tissues…etc. In other words, “Blood is the Source of Life”.

The body sometimes faces difficulties in replacing blood components for different reasons and at the same time there are no substitutes for blood. The only source for blood is from donors who voluntary give their blood to help save others who are in need for it. There are four types of transfusable products that can be derived from blood: red cells, platelets, plasma and cryoprecipitate. Typically, two or three of these are produced from a pint of donated whole blood – hence each donation can help save up to three lives.
Your body contains around 10 pints of blood, 1 pint is given during a donation and it consists of cells and fluid (plasma), red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes) and platelets (thrombocytes). Each component of blood is precious and extremely needed nationwide.

By using the National Blood Transfusion Services, blood donors donate only 450±10% ml that is about 10% of the blood in your body. Our body replaces the blood volume (plasma) within 24 hours. Red blood cells are replaced by the bone marrow into the circulatory system within about 3-4 weeks, while the lost iron is replaced over approximately 6-8 weeks; however, it is recommended for donors to donate in 3 month intervals for males and 4 month intervals for females.


  • Adults have around 10 pints of blood in their body. 1 pint is given during a donation.
  • 1 in every 7 patients entering hospital needs blood.
  • There is no substitute for human blood.
  • Approximately every 5 minutes, someone in Egypt needs blood.
  • 1 pint of blood can save up to 3 lives.
  • Blood cannot be manufactured; it can only come from volunteer donors.
  • Platelets, critical for cancer patients, have a shelf life of only 5 days – new donations are constantly needed.
  • Donors can give either whole blood or specific blood components only. The process of donating specific blood components like platelets – is called apheresis.
  • Healthy bone marrow makes a constant supply of red cells, plasma and platelets. The body will replenish the elements given during a blood donation – some in a matter of hours and others in a matter of weeks.


How can one donation help multiple people?
In modern medical treatments, patients may receive a pint of whole blood or just specific components of the blood needed to treat their particular condition. Up to four components can be derived from donated blood. This approach to treatment, referred to as blood component therapy, allows several patients to benefit from one pint of donated whole blood. The main transfusable blood components include:

1. Whole Blood

  • Whole blood contains red cells (RBCs), white cells, and platelets (~45% of volume) suspended in plasma (~55% of volume).
  • Uses: Trauma, Surgery.

2. RBCs

  • Red Blood Cells are one of the main components of the blood. RBCs contain haemoglobin, a complex protein containing iron that carries oxygen through the body.
  • Key Uses:
    • Trauma victims.
    • Cancer patient.
    • Hemolytic patients.
    • Kidney failure patients.
    • Bone marrow failure.
    • Surgery.
    • Anemia.
  • In order to reduce the risk from allergic reactions during transfusion, especially in those who receive continuous blood transfusion, we may give:
    • Washed Red Blood Cells: Washed RBCs are the result of a process that removes most of the plasma that may cause allergic reactions.
    • Leukocyte Reduced RBC’s: This process is done by passing the blood through special filters that specifically prevent Leucocytes from going through.

3. Platelets

  • Platelets’ main function is to interact with clotting proteins to stop or prevent bleeding. First when an injury occurs, platelets adhere to each other and to the edges of the injured vessels to form a plug that blocks the area. They then excrete certain factors that initiate and help in the process of clot formation. Patients with low platelet count or defective functions may need platelet transfusion to stop or to prevent severe bleeding episodes.
  • The following is a list of patients who may need platelet transfusion:
    • Cancer treatments.
    • Aplastic Anemia.
    • Thromboasthenia (defective platelet function).
    • Organ Transplant Patients.
    • Marrow Transplant Patients.
    • Cases of massive blood transfusion (heart surgery).

4. Plasma

  • Plasma is a fluid which is 92 percent water and constitutes 55% of the blood components. Blood cells travel through the body in plasma. In addition to carrying blood cells throughout the body, plasma also carries hormones, nutrients, proteins, chemicals such as iron, gases such as carbon dioxide and clotting factors. Plasma serves a variety of functions, from maintaining a satisfactory blood pressure and volume to supplying critical proteins for blood clotting and immunity.
  • The following is a list of patients who may need plasma transfusion:
    • People who suffer from blood clotting problems such as: Hemophilias.
    • Volume expander such as: Severe Hamorage.
    • Burns.

5. Plasma Fractions

  • Plasma can be fractionated to other subcomponents:
    • Factor VIII Cryoprecipitate: People who suffer from deficiency in coagulation factors will need Factor VIII Cryoprecipitate.
    • Cryoseparated plasma(CSP): This is the remaining plasma after the process of cryoprecipitation. It contains all other plasma components, especially albumin and stable coagulation factors This can be used as volume expanded or cases who suffer from deficiency in stable coagulation factors such as Factor IX deficiency.


  • Whole Blood: 21 / 35 Days*
  • Red Blood Cells: Up to 42 Days*
  • Platelets: 5 Days
  • Plasma: 1 Year
  • Cryoprecipitated AHF: 1 Year

* Shelf life of whole blood and red cells varies based on the type of anticoagulant used.


Although all blood is made of the same basic elements, not all blood is alike. In fact, there are eight different common blood types, which are determined by the presence or absence of certain antigens – substances that can trigger an immune response if they are foreign to the body. Since some antigens can trigger a patient’s immune system to attack the transfused blood, safe blood transfusions depend on careful blood typing and cross-matching.

The ABO Blood Group System

There are four major blood groups determined by the presence or absence of two antigens – A and B – on the surface of red blood cells:

  • Group A – has only the A antigen on red cells (and B antibody in the plasma).
  • Group B – has only the B antigen on red cells (and A antibody in the plasma).
  • Group AB – has both A and B antigens on red cells (but neither A nor B antibody in the plasma).
  • Group O – has neither A nor B antigens on red cells (but both A and B antibody are in the plasma).

There are very specific ways in which blood types must be matched for a safe transfusion:

  • In addition to the A and B antigens, there is a third antigen called the Rh factor, which can be either present (+) or absent ( –). In general, Rh negative blood is given to Rh-negative patients, and Rh positive blood or Rh negative blood may be given to Rh positive patients.


Blood is a vital element of life and it is indeed irreplaceable. Every day, many people in Egypt are in need of blood due to illness, accidents, and other emergencies. The facts about blood donation below represent the need and emergency of recruiting new regular, voluntarily, non-remunerated blood donors.

  • More than 1 million new people are diagnosed with cancer each year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
  • The blood used in an emergency has to be readily available on the shelves or in stock in case of any accidents.
  • Egypt has one of the highest accident rates in the world: 22,793 accidents in 2009. The number of infected people was 35,428 in 2009. Total number of deceased people was 6,486 in 2009 (1).
  • Maternal mortality cases are mostly caused by severe bleeding:  The 2000 maternal mortality study in Egypt revealed that the lack of blood at the medical center or hospital contributed to 16 percent of maternal deaths in the country vs 6% in 1992/1993 (2).
  • Thalassemia patients need red blood cell transfusions every 2-3 weeks: In Egypt there are 10,000 registered thalassemia cases and more than 20,000 non-registered cases There is a very high prevalence of Hepatitis C virus among patients, that’s why safe blood is crucial to them. There’s a need for life-long regular blood transfusion (3).
  • Cancer cases in Egypt are increasing annually: 300,000 new cancer patients from 1970 – 2005 (4).
  • Egypt ranked 28th in the world on Leukemia cases according to WHO 2004 (cancer that starts in the bone marrow may crowd out the normal blood making cells, leading to low blood counts).


  1. Annual Bulletin of Car Accidents in Egypt, Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics. Retrieved from <>.
  2. Egypt Ministry of Health and Population, Directorate of Maternal and Child Health Care, National Maternal Mortality Study, 2000 (Cairo: Ministry of Health and Population, June 2001). Retrieved from <>.
  3. Egyptian Thalassemia Foundation. Retrieved from <>.
  4. National Cancer Institute Egypt. Retrieved from <[Compatibility%20Mode].pdf>.
  5. Retrieved from <>.