Blood transfusions are one of the most overused procedures in medicine, and they aren’t always necessary, according to one Saskatoon doctor.

“When it's necessary no question you need a blood transfusion but when it's kind of that grey area and maybe a physician decides his patient feels weak and if he just tops her up with another couple units she might feel better those are the kind of grey areas maybe unnecessary,” said Dr. Karen Dallas, director of transfusion medicine at the Royal University Hospital.

At one point, Saskatchewan was ranked one of the worst provinces in the country when it came to managing blood products.

“We did at some point have a quite higher rate of transfusions and of outdating blood products so things that were not really that good for our system,” Dr. Dallas said.

The province is working hard to change that. In 2008, the transfusion medicine working group was formed to reduce waste and maintain the quality of blood products in hospitals. Over the past four years, the group has managed to save the province close to $10 million. They were awarded the Premier’s Award of Excellence last year.

“We actually looked at the inventory of blood products in different hospitals that hold products and looked at whether it was really necessary to hold that many units of blood,” Dallas explained.

Dr. Dallas said some doctors have been slow to adapt, but she said unnecessary transfusions can predispose patients to a number of medical complications.

There are different strategies to reduce the use of blood, including siphoning, reprocessing and re-infusing patient blood back into their own bodies, and minimally invasive procedures like laparoscopic surgery.

“Will this decrease Canadian Blood Services shortages? Maybe,” Dr. Dallas said. “I mean we're talking about across the Country to so the whole Country really has to be engaged in decreasing unnecessary transfusions but I think we will get there.”

There is no national system to help health regions reduce blood transfusions, but Dallas hopes work like theirs will catch on across the country.