The advent of the understanding of human anatomy and the circulation of blood gave rise to experimentation in transfusion techniques involving animal-to-animal and animal-to-human procedures. This eventually resulted in human-to-human transfusion.
The study and research in the field of blood transfusion is known to have been carried out as early as the 16th century. However, the experiments carried out resulted in a number of fatal reactions. This led to a ban being imposed on transfusion in a number of countries like France and England.
James Blundell, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Guy’s Hospital in London is credited with reintroducing blood transfusion. He graduated from Edinburgh in 1813. He was greatly influenced by the work done earlier by John Henry Leacock who was also a graduate of Edinburgh. It was he who established that the donor and recipient involved in the transfusion process must be of the same species.
The first human transfusion was done by Blundel in the year 1818. It involved a 35 year old man with stomach cancer. The man was administered fourteen ounces of blood from different donors using a syringe. The patient unfortunately died fifty six hours later.
Blundell devised an apparatus, known as Blundell’s Impellor to aid transfusion. It consisted of a funnel and pump to collect donor blood for indirect transfusion into the veins of a patient. Blundell and his colleagues subsequently carried out ten transfusions out of which only four were successful. Thus transfusion remained controversial.
It was not until Karl Landsteiner demonstrated that agglutination of cells could occur between the blood of individuals of the same species, that the cause of adverse reactions resulting from transfusion became more clear. He identified three blood groups namely A, B and O. He suggested that his findings could be used to study blood transfusion but his idea was not adopted until more than a decade later.