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Blundell's blood transfusion apparatus, London, England,1801-1900

Blundell's blood transfusion apparatus, London, England,1801-1900

Credits: National Railway Museum

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James Blundell (1790-1878) was a British obstetrician. He performed the first recorded successful human-to-human blood transfusion in 1818, using the patient’s husband as the donor. Blundell took blood from his arm and used a syringe to transfuse it to the wife. He performed a further ten transfusions between 1825 and 1830 and published details of them. Half were successful. Blundell limited the use of his transfusion apparatus to women on the verge of death due to uterine haemorrhage, the heavy bleeding that can result from a difficult labour. Blundell believed blood had a nutritive property and was infused with vitalism – a living force. One major reason for many unsuccessful early transfusions was blood compatibility not being understood. This problem was solved in 1900 when Karl Landsteiner (1868-1943) discovered blood groups. However, a pregnant woman’s immune system is naturally lowered. This means blood compatibility is not as much of a complication. Blundell’s blood transfusion apparatus was manufactured by Savigny and Company in London.

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    Glossary: blood transfusion apparatus

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    Glossary: blood transfusion

    An injection of healthy, donated blood into a patient to raise his or her number of red blood cells. The blood is matched according to type (A, B, O, AB).