18 Innovations: Blood Transfusions

Cleveland Clinic founder, George Crile Sr., MD, performed the first successful human-to-human blood transfusion

Early in his illustrious career as a surgeon and researcher, Cleveland Clinic founder George Crile Sr., MD, became fascinated with blood transfusions. In 1905, he visited the lab of a French surgeon who was developing a blood transfusion technique.

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In 1906, Dr. Crile modified and enhanced the procedure in Cleveland and became the first surgeon to succeed in a direct human-to-human blood transfusion. He went on to use the technique to save many soldiers’ lives on the battlefield in France during World War I and throughout his career at Cleveland Clinic.

Blood transfusions have come a long way in the last century. Today, according to the Annals of Internal Medicine, around 85 million units of red blood cells are transfused globally in a given year.

Fast forward to the future and Cleveland Clinic is at the forefront of blood conservation, helping patients to have blood transfusions only when needed. See this story for more on blood transfusions.

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Cleveland Clinic patient receiving a blood transfusion.

Dr. Crile and Dr. Harry Sloan perform the first successful human-to-human blood transfusion on the Miller brothers at St. Alexis Hospital in 1906.

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