The battles of the First World War gave a massive impetus to the field of blood transfusions. At the time, there were many technical difficulties to overcome to make this the practical, safe and widespread practice it is today.
The importance–and difficulties–of indirect transfusion
Not least was the problem of indirect transfusions. Early blood transfusions were direct–in other words, arm-to-arm transfusions done 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.
His instrument, named the transflecor flébula was presented at la Real Academia de Medicina de Barcelona on May 23, 1928. This device was patented in Spain and Germany that same year, in France and Great Britain a year later, and in the United States in 1933. It was the first instrument invented in Spain based on the technique of indirect transfusion.
Reducing risks for patients
The transflecor flébula was similar to an existing invention named the Kimpton-Brown-Percy tube. The Grifols innovation was to reduce the contact surface area and dispense with rubber tubes or valves, increasing the probability that the donated blood would remain aseptic, and free from contamination.
Another innovation in the apparatus was the use of sodium citrate to prevent the blood from clotting. The use of this compound dates back to 1914 when different researchers around the world discovered its efficacy as an anti-clotting agent.
Although not a huge commercial success due to its relatively high cost of manufacture, the transflecor flébula was a key contribution to the shaping of a new medical discipline of hemotherapy.
It was the first device invented in Spain based on the technique of indirect transfusion