New technology takes the sting out of blood donations - Cape Cod Healthcare

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Published on June 15, 2021

New technology takes the sting out of blood donations

Finger Prick Blood

Good news for blood donors: the painful finger prick is gone.

Cape Cod Healthcare’s blood drives have replaced the lancet used to draw blood for the hemoglobin test using the Hemocue instrument with a non-invasive device that allows for a pain-free hemoglobin test.

“When you talk to donors about the whole blood donation process, it's the finger stick that's often mentioned as their least favorite part of the whole donation experience,” said Jonathan DeCoste, senior blood donor recruiter at Cape Cod Healthcare.

“The hemoglobin test is required by the FDA to ensure that the donor is not anemic and that they have enough red blood cells in their body to be able to safely donate a unit of blood,” said Lok Tse, supervisor for transfusion medicine services and the blood donor program at Cape Cod Healthcare. “When they do the finger stick, they use a lancet, so it goes pretty deep into the skin to ensure good blood flow.” 

The OrSense hemoglobin analyzer is a ring-shaped sensor that fits snugly on the donor’s thumb, almost like a mini blood-pressure cuff. It uses occlusion spectroscopy (a multi-wavelength optical measurement) to determine the hemoglobin level. Results are ready in less than 60 seconds. OrSense received FDA 510(K) clearance in May, 2019 for use in blood collection centers.

The OrSense has been used since early April at all blood drives and at the Nicholas G. Xiarhos Blood Donor Center at Cape Cod Hospital on days when there are no blood drives.

“The staff like to use it, and the reception from donors has been fantastic,” said DeCoste. “I was actually talking to a staff member who said that when one donor came in and heard what the OrSense does, she put up her hands and exclaimed, ‘This is great.’”

In addition to eliminating the painful finger stick, the switch reduces costs and hazardous waste, said Tse. The device is sanitized between uses.

“It represents a win/win for blood donors and our blood program,” said Tse. “The blood donor experience is more comfortable, and it provides for more efficient, lower cost operations for our blood program.”

Cape Cod Healthcare is the first in Massachusetts to adopt this new technology, he said.

The OrSense hemoglobin analyzer was donated to Cape Cod Healthcare by the Nicholas G. Xiarhos Memorial Fund and Big Nick’s Riders. “In February 2020, we were planning the annual USMC Corporal Nicholas G. Xiarhos Memorial Blood Drive and Steven Xiarhos [Nicholas’s father] heard Lok talk about the OrSense,” said DeCoste. “He said, ‘We'd love to be a part of this and help make it happen.’”

“There is always a need for donated blood, said DeCoste. “We encourage people to look for a blood drive near them. We would love to see them at an upcoming blood drive.”

All blood donations are by appointment only.