Blood goes stale—and fairly quickly

Doctors have long thought it safe to store donated blood for up to 42 days, but some patients do better when the blood they receive is fewer than 14 days old.

By Cynthia Graber, 00:00 AM April 2, 2008

After an accident, an ambulance arrives and rushes a patient to the hospital. Doctors realize the patient has lost too much blood and needs a donation of stored blood, called a transfusion. That blood comes from people who have voluntarily donated their own for emergencies or surgeries, so it's ready when needed.

But how long can blood be safely stored before it's no longer any good? Today, the government says hospitals can hold it for 42 days before it's considered too old. The average age ...

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