The Blood Service processes each donation to ensure components are optimised to help the greatest number of recipients. For example, whole blood donations are manufactured into red blood cells, platelets and plasma products.
After collection, all donations are sent to Blood Service Processing Centres for further manufacture so patients can receive the most appropriate component to clinically benefit their condition. In fact, whole blood is rarely used for transfusion. Once the manufacturing process is complete, the blood products are then kept at specific temperature and storage requirements which all maintain their quality and shelf life.
Upon completion of the testing and processing procedures, the blood products are made available to be distributed to transfusion laboratories for providing to patients. All blood that is manufactured by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service is compliant with good manufacturing and laboratory practice and is of high, consistent standard.
Leucodepleted blood products
All platelet and red cell products provided by the Blood Service in Australia are filtered to remove more than 99% of white cells from blood products in a process known as leucodepletion. Leucodepletion reduces the risk of Cytomegalovirus (CMV) transmission and the risk of other transfusion-related reactions.
In some circumstances, further processing is required for particular components before they can be transfused to patients. For example, your doctor could request red cells that have been washed. These processes are performed by the Blood Service.
Washed red cells
Washing of red cells removes many plasma proteins, including antibodies. People most likely to require this product are patients:
- with a history of severe reactions to transfusion despite receiving leucodepleted products
- with severe allergic reactions where the cause is unknown
- who react to transfused plasma proteins, for example those with IgA deficiency.
Washed red cells are only prepared for specific patients upon request from their doctor. This method involves several more processing steps and also shortens the shelf life of the product.
Irradiated blood products
Irradiated blood products may be requested to prevent transfusion-associated graft-versus host disease (TA-GvHD). TA-GvHD may occur where transfused white blood cells see the recipient as foreign and attack the recipient’s cells. This can lead to severe illness and even death. It is a rare but serious risk of a blood transfusion. It is an issue for people with weakened immune systems or when the recipient and donor are very similar genetically.
Gamma radiation can be used to destroy the white cells in the donated blood, preventing TA-GvHD. This process does not remove them but prevents them from multiplying and causing the disease. The Blood Service irradiates some but not all of the red cell and platelet components, so your doctor will need to request them. Those most likely to require irradiated products include patients:
- receiving blood from
- family members
- tissue typed matched donors
- granulocyte (white cell) donors
- with an inherited immune system disorder
- patients who have developed an immune disease or disorder such as some cancers
- who have developed an immune disorder as a result of treatment with certain drugs
- with a weakened immune system as a result of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant
- unborn babies and babies who have received intrauterine transfusions.
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