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The Cook County Health and Hospitals System this week is celebrating what it says is one of the greatest milestones in medical history — the creation of a "blood bank."

Imagined 75 years ago by Cook County Hospital's Dr. Bernard Fantus, the nation's first hospital blood bank came to be on March 15, 1937.

While physicians abroad had already reported preserving blood for later transfusions, Fantus holds the distinction of coining the term "blood bank" and organizing the first hospital blood storage system in the U.S.

"What Dr. Fantus (did is) one of the greatest landmarks in the history of medicine," said Cook hospital system CEO Ramanathan Raju. "We're all very proud of that."

Cook County's Stroger. Hospital went through about 12,000 units of blood in 2011 and averages 300 to 500 transfusions a month, according to blood bank staff. An average weekend in the trauma department — one of the busiest in the nation — requires about 100 units of blood, said trauma surgeon Andrew Dennis.

The year before the blood bank was started, Cook County Hospital completed 649 blood transfusions, said Sally Campbell-Lee, director of transfusion medicine at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System. The next year, after the blood bank's creation, 1,354 transfusions were done.

Blood transfusions today are the most commonly performed medical procedure and without Fantus' contributions, Campbell-Lee said the field likely would not be as advanced.

Campbell-Lee is past president of the Illinois Association of Blood Banks. That organization, along with the Cook hospital system, is hosting a medical symposium in Oak Brook on Thursday to honor Fantus and the blood bank's 75th anniversary.

Copyright © 2012, Chicago Tribune

Written by Medical Tactics — April 10, 2012