Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Blood Simple



I have a problem with House.

I know that Hugh Laurie is teh sexx0r and ZOMG I can't believe he's English his accent is soooo perfect!!!111eleven!! But there's something in it every week that wrecks my WSOD and pisses me off.

It's not that his doctors break into the patients' houses every week to snoop for lifestyle issues. It's not that his doctors do all the lab testing, which I find less than completely realistic, having worked as a technologist in Clinical Laboratories since 1984. I know you have to have the leads do all the work, simplifying the character list in order to foreground the plot. It's not even that (this week) he dosed a fellow surgeon's coffee with amphetamine, which is normally frowned upon by a hospital's HR. Your lead character always has to have a flaw, preferably an amusing one.

It's the blood. The blood looks wrong. And there's always a lot of it about, often being sprayed everywhere, and they always get it wrong.

Fresh blood isn't a red liquid. Take it from me; I've crossmatched thousands of units for transfusion. I've handled and tested hundreds of liters of the stuff. Cord blood, baby blood, adult blood, HIV positive blood, HBe antigen positive blood, I've been up to my elbows in it, and it isn't a red liquid. It's a straw-colored fluid with lots and lots of small red particles – red blood cells – suspended in it. Red blood cells are solid, so fresh blood is never see-through, nor is it translucent. It never looks like a sports drink or Jello.

Sports drink - does not have red blood cells.

Blood is completely opaque, ranging from deep crimson to brick red. Left to its own devices, it eventually clots and the red cells drop to the bottom of the container, leaving a pale yellow serum.

Blood is not red. The red cells are red. They drop to the bottom after clotting.

If it's anti-coagulated, like a unit of blood, it is opaque red until the red cells settle out or are centrifuged out, when it becomes a pale yellow plasma. But it is never see-through red.

Red cells are red. For transfusion, the blood bank often separates the red cells and the straw-colored plasma into different bags for different uses.

It seems so easy to get this right. Red powder paint in whatever they're using for a fluid should do it. Red chalk. Rouge. Any reddish powder. But instead they use something that splashes exactly right, but looks exactly wrong.

Why is that?

2 comments:

Greg said...

Perhaps you overlooked the possibility that it is __not in their interest__ to make the blood look realistic.

Peromyscus said...

I guess I did. I'd probably remember better next time if you'd given me a reason why that might be the case, though.

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