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Is it true that hespan is poison and has been banned from cord blood processing?

These rumors are totally false. In fact, our 2015 Cord Blood Industry Report found that the majority of family cord blood banks in the United States and Canada are processing cord blood manually with hespan. Hespan or HES is a brand name for the chemical hydroxyethyl starch. It is commonly used in most laboratories that handle blood.

The source of the rumors about hespan is the following: Up until recently, it was a standard procedure in emergency rooms to give a large infusion of hespan to patients who were going into shock from loss of blood pressure. The idea was to briefly replace their blood volume with hespan while the ER doctors were rushing to fix whatever problem had caused a rapid loss of blood pressure, and while waiting for a matching transfusion from the nearest blood bank. However, retrospective studies have recently found that patients who survived this experience were likely to develop kidney failure later. Hence, doctors now realize that infusing large volumes of hespan intravenously is not safe. However, the use of small volumes of hespan in cord blood processing is still perfectly safe.

Zarychanski R. et al. 2013; JAMA 309(7):678-88. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.430.