Australian Red Cross Hopes Portable Non-invasive Infra-red Technology will Increase Blood Donations

The Australian Red Cross is testing a new device that may help bring in squeamish blood donors who get tired of hearing, “you have tiny veins.” A new infrared tool is being used to locate veins, making them literally appear before the phlebotomist’s eyes.

As someone with the dreaded tiny vein syndrome, I know the frustration of having nurses poke and pinch my skin and being told to “squeeze the rubber ball” a little faster in hopes that a vein would suddenly rise to the top like a juicy worm, or having a technician dive in for a vein only to have it “roll away” from the needle. Ouch! Although the new device being tested by the Australian Red Cross doesn’t have a specific name, it is said to be similar to the AccuVein technology that is currently being used in hospitals across the United States.

How does it work?

The hemoglobin found in veins tends to absorb nearby infrared light. This allows the new gadget to create a “map” of sorts. Dr. Dan Waller, a senior researcher at the Austrailian Red Cross Blood Service is excited for the possibilities in terms of gaining new blood donors saying, “This could make it easier for people who want to give blood but have had bad experiences with health care workers trying to find their veins.”

Doctors who are already using the technology in hospitals across the United States share Dr. Waller’s excitement. “Patients are very relieved. It decreases anxiety, they feel much more comfortable. They think it’s really interesting and cool,” said Dr. Garry Choy, an attending physician at the department of radiology at Massachusetts General.

Though some hospitals are lucky enough to have the infrared technology at their disposal, the existing AccuVein device is not cheap. The goal of Australian researchers is to try the device in a blood donation setting to gauge how quickly and easily it works and whether ultimately, it makes donors want to return. Now that the device is portable, the organization hopes it will become available to a smaller hospitals and blood donation centers across the globe.