Lindsey Pouppirt is a sweet, mild-mannered and charitable public relations executive outside Philadelphia, but there is a reason she doesn’t donate blood that much.
"I have small veins, and every time one comes to stick that needle in, they absolutely beat my arms like crazy," she said. "Plus, I hate needles and large ones that go in makes it hurt even more."
Pouppirt is not in the minority of Americans when it comes to having blood drawn at a hospital or a doctor’s office. Babies cry when they face the very first needle stick on the finger, adolescents cringe when it comes time to graduate to the arm and adults put it off when they have to go for the blood draw at the doctor – whether it's for an HIV test, to monitor medication, or to just get the general state of the body addressed. But some new developments at Becton Dickinson, the country’s leading provider of syringes and blood collection devices, might make those moments a little less painful.
Most hospitals and doctors offices in the US know that the syringe is a relatively outdated method of blood collection and have graduated to the VacutainerTM system of taking blood, meaning one needle stick is sufficient instead of several. But most patients don’t know that they can ask for threaded catheters and more elaborate collection systems at places like Quest Diagnostics, which cost the companies a few cents extra, but reduce the pressure to the arm when changing tubes for multiple blood samples.
"These new devices are pretty much available everywhere and they are under $1 for the whole draw," said Krista Thompson, of BD, who is a hands-on product administrator. A former phlebotomist, Thompson tests every new blood draw on her arm before it leaves BD.
The first new product out of BD in 2003 was the VacutainerTM Push Button Collection Set, which allows the nurse or phlebotomist to withdraw the needle out of a patient’s arm by pushing on a button, thus activating a spring within the device. By doing this, it helps protect everyone in the room from needle stick injury – another objective of BD besides comfort.
Along the vein of protecting the healthcare provider, which BD has been active in since the late 1980s with University of Virginia researchers and OSHA, BD came out with the BD Safety-LokTM Blood Collection Set. Featuring "wings for easy entry into a patient’s arm," the Safety-Lok, has a shield the slides over the needle easily with one finger once the blood collection is complete.
Blood collection is one of the common causes of more than 500,000 needle stick injuries that occur among US health care workers annually, and sometimes the patient too, a recent study from researchers at the University of Virginia stated. "First and foremost, this is getting used on people, so design comes first, but we also take health care workers’ safety very seriously," Thompson said. "We try to be active in both areas."
According to Thompson, the Vacutainer system of blood collection was invented and patented at BD in 1949 and addressed an emerging problem within the health care industry created by syringes and steel needles. Syringes proved effective when it came to injections, but collection of blood was a different matter. Too many needle sticks for the patient and too many accidental needle sticks for phlebotomists were occurring when it came to blood transfer.
"It took 45 years to get America entirely converted to this system, and now 50 percent of the world is, with the exception of Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America" Thompson said. "Our primary barrier is training and getting people used to changing the tubes."
But although companies are coming out with improved catheters and collection sets, clinicians are needing less blood. Not that the Vacutainer will become obsolete, but what used to take half a tube of blood to diagnose now takes two drops. For that, manufacturers like BD make sharps that stick a finger within a split second complete with rescinding needle.
That’s good news for Pouppirt.
"Breaking the skin for a minute certainly seems less tortuous."
Last updated: 15-Jan-04