'New York Doctors' Invention Will Prevent Transfusion Errors"

"Concord, N.H. - Joseph Guarino, 86, suffering from colon cancer, entered a New Jersey hospital in 1987, at a time when another man with the same name was a patient.

Guarino was given a blood transfusion with the other man's blood type and died. A jury awarded $120,000 to his estate and family last spring.

Of the 4 million Americans who get transfusions every year, more than 2,600 errors are made despite precautions, according to the trade journal Transfusion.

Harold Kaplan and John Gorman, two New York City doctors, two years ago decided to do something. Sitting around Gorman's kitchen table with Dr. Carlos Irazogue, who has an engineering background, they designed a simple device they believe will eliminate transfusion errors. It's call Bloodloc, and it's being tested at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.

"I've been in this industry for 28 years, and this is the first one of these that has come out," said Bob Sullivan, manager of the blood bank at Dartmouth Hitchcock. "And the reason is no one could ever work it out, and here's a simple little thing."

"It's something that's been needed for 50 years," he said.

"Drs. Barry Wenz and Edward Burns of the Weiler Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York studied 300 transfusions in five months using Bloodloc, and said the staff found patients reassured.

Hospitals now use a system of cross-matching to make certain the right blood gets to the right patient.

But errors still might occur if there is a change in operating room schedule or a mixup when two people in the same room are getting transfusions.

Gorman, Director of the Blood Bank at New York University Medical Center, and Kaplan, Senior Vice President of the New York Blood Center, realized something more was needed. They started with a child-proof aspiring bottle and then moved on to a fruit jar top with the letters of the alphabet written around the circumference.

But 26 letters were not enough to give each hospital patient a unique code necessary with four major blood types plus combinations of positive and negative blood and other rare blood factors.

They came up with a yo-yo-type of lock with three rings fitted onto each other, each with 26 letters providing 12,000 combinations. The lock is attached to the plastic bag that holds the blood, and each patient is given a bracelet that matches the code on the bag.
(Since this published article revisions changed the band to a coded wrist tab attached to the hospital identification bracelet.)

"If a blood worker inadvertently tries to give the wrong blood to a patient, the blood bag won't open because lock and bracelet combination won't match.

To manufacture and market the product, Novatek Medical, Inc. was created." *

* "New York Doctors' Invention Will Prevent Transfusion Errors"
By Mike Recht, Associated Press Writer,
December 23, 1991