Vein Viewing Technology Use is an Australian First

Editor’s Note: The following information comes from the Australian Red Cross, who are trialling a device that utilises near infrared light to track blood vessels to improve the blood donation experience.
Near infrared light is starting to appear in a range of medical technologies that can provide cheap and accurate metrics for patients for a range of conditions.
We have included this information given pharmacist interest in flu vaccinations may eventually expand into other programs requiring intravenous administration.


Do you have hard-to-find veins?
Don’t let that stop you from donating blood.
In a world-first study, the Australian Red Cross Blood service is conducting research into the use of leading-edge technology to visualise blood donors’ veins during blood donation.
The vein visualisation devices are portable, and project an image of the veins onto the skin’s surface using non-invasive near infra-red technology.
The Blood Service is aiming to find out if this procedure reduces anxiety, improves donation comfort and makes donors more likely to donate again.
The study will assess the responses of 300 first-time and 600 return donors aged between 18 and 30 attending the Chatswood and Elizabeth Street Donor Centres in Sydney.
“Donor Centre staff have found the technology particularly useful in cases where the vein is not visible to the naked eye” said Dr Dan Waller, one of the senior investigators on the trial.
“We are keen to retain our young donors, and it is important to test if this technology may help us do that.”
The results of the research so far will be presented at a conference in Philadelphia in late October.

Dr Dan Waller, Australian Red Cross Blood Service
Dr Dan Waller, Australian Red Cross Blood Service

How does the technology work? Will it work on anyone? And what information is required to make the visualisation?

Vein visualisation technology uses near infrared technology to project an image of the vein onto the skin.
Veins have a lot of deoxygenated haemoglobin that absorbs near infrared light and the device is able to use this information to project the image.
The machines have settings to manage individual differences.

Is there a medical reason some people have hard-to-find veins? Or is it just a case of bad luck?

There is great variability in anatomy from person to person.
Some people have very easy to find veins where as others have difficult to find veins.
In the case of most blood donors, it really is luck of the draw.

There is a focus on the trial getting young people in – is that to try and create life-long donors?

It is important for the Blood Service to recruit young donors in order to have a sustainable blood supply for the future.
We are interested to see if this technology improves the donation experience in young people and whether that increases their likelihood to return to make repeat donations.

If it’s a success, what’s the next step? How far off are we from seeing the technology roll out across donor sites nation-wide? And is it financially feasible to do so?

The study will help the Blood Service to decide on whether the technology should be rolled out for use.
There are a number of factors that need to be considered such as the safety and efficacy of the devices, their impact on donor retention and the cost of the technology.
When the study is completed we will have a lot more information to guide these decisions.

Does the Red Cross own the technology, and would it therefore be in a position to monetise it by leasing it out?

No the Blood Service doesn’t own the technology.
We are trialling two different devices available from Australian providers.

This is great, but is it really safe?

That is a really important question and an important reason to do this research.
The light should not be directed at the eyes and the manufacturers’ advice is to use caution in people with impaired blink reflexes.
The technology is used in other clinical and hospital settings and has been proven to be safe.
The Blood Service would not trial this technology if they thought there was a risk to the safety of our donors.
The results to date have been closely monitored and it does appear safe.

Could it be used to pick up blocked arteries in the limbs?

These devices are not for diagnostic testing such as detecting blocked arteries.

Source: Australian Red Cross

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