Between the 1900s and 1950s, blood transfusions experienced a scientific revolution at a global level. Early blood transfusions were direct–in other words, done arm-to-arm with both donor and recipient laying side by side, in the same room, at the same time. An indirect transfusion, where donations are made, the blood stored and later transfused into a patient, was clearly a more practical solution.
Achieving it without the risk of infection or contamination was the goal of several researchers, including Dr. Grífols i Roig. The chief consideration was developing an instrument that could facilitate the task.
A historic innovation
On May 23, 1928, Josep Antoni Grífols i Roig achieved that goal. He demonstrated for the first time in Spain that blood could be donated, stored and then transferred to a patient, without the donor and recipient both being present.
On that date, Grifols' blood transfusion apparatus was presented to the Barcelona Royal Academy of Medicine. By building on the work of other scientists, Josep Antoni had perfected the aseptic system.
His instrument was capable of storing blood without it coagulating: first with the use of paraffin, and then with sodium citrate. Consequently, he was also the first to carry out indirect transfusions under conditions of sterility in Spain. It was a practically risk-free method, since the body metabolizes sodium citrate immediately. His contribution was part of the evolutionary story of blood transfusion. Others are listed below.
The first sterile, low-risk indirect transfusions in Spain
Landmarks leading to indirect transfusion:
| 1818 || James Blundell conducts the first direct transfusion between humans successfully. |
| 1881 || Berlin surgeon Albert Landerer uses saline serum for the first time to replace lost blood during interventions. |
| 1900 || Karl Landsteiner develops the first classification of blood groups in A, B and C (which later would become group O). |
| 1902 || Alfred Decastello and Adriano Sturli add the AB group. |
| 1906 || George Washington Crile makes direct transfusions with his artery-venous method, which takes into account Landsteiner's findings. |
| 1907 || Ludvig Hektoen suggests for the first time that donors and patients should be compatible. |
| 1912 || Roger Lee demonstrates that group O is a universal donor and that group AB is a universal recipient. |
| 1913 || A.R. Kimpton and J.H. Brown initiate indirect transfusion by conserving blood in their paraffinized tubes. |
| 1914 || A. Hustin and L. Agote observe, independently, the anticoagulant effect of sodium citrate, which made the transfusion of preserved blood possible. |