Screening blood donors with a focus on safety
Until three years ago the Western Province Blood Transfusion Service used only the CuSO4 method for Hb measurement in potential blood donors. Now, all of their sites have changed to the HemoCue® Hb 301 system. One evident difference since the change is that the number of false deferrals has decreased.
According to Dr. Greg Bellairs, Medical officer with clinical responsibility for the blood donation at the Transfusion service, they now get 50 to 100 extra units of blood per month as a result of not having to defer people unnecessarily. The change of methods has also had an effect on their credibility.
”I think it could be very irritating for our blood donors to first hear that “No, sorry, you are too anemic to give blood” and then, after having had a full blood count done, receiving a letter saying “Look, you are actually not anemic and you can present to donate blood whenever you want”. I think it sometimes left them with a feeling that we did not know what we were doing and that they might have started wondering about who was really right and who was wrong. Now we don’t have that problem any more.” Dr. Greg Bellairs mentions another advantage with the change and that is the satisfaction of now using a quantitative method for Hb testing instead of receiving only yes or no answers as with the CuSO4 method.
”There are conditions where the Hb value is higher than the normal 12.5 to 16.5 g/dL. If the value is 18 to 19, or even 20, it is an indication to check more thoroughly with a full blood count. The blood donor may suffer from erythrocytosis, a condition with an abnormally high number of red blood cells. Heart problems, chronic lung disease and bone marrow defects may be underlying causes and now that we use a quantitative Hb method we can identify these people and they can get the required care.”
The Western Province Blood Transfusion Service has a donor base of 50 000 active blood donors. Together they donate
120 000 to 130 000 units of blood per year. The clinical staff of 100 work in either the headquarters in Cape Town, the three regional branches or in the mobile units that can be set up anywhere, such as educational centers or shopping centers.
Three years ago the Transfusion Service started using the HemoCue® Hb Donor Checker as a secondary method for double checking failed blood donors. Last year they eliminated use of the CuSO4 method altogether and changed to the HemoCue® Hb 301 system as their primary method.
”The later system is even quicker with a result after only 10 seconds instead of 45. Another advantage is that the microcuvettes are not sensitive to changes in temperature or humidity. South Africa is a country with a varying climate. In the summer it can be 30 to 40 degrees centigrade and in winter maybe not more than eight or ten. In the interior of the country it is usually dry and cold, whereas in the coastal regions it is both humid and hot. With the HemoCue® Hb 301 system we do not have to worry that the temperature or humidity will influence the result. We can simply be confident in the validity of the result.”
About Dr. Greg BellairsDr. Greg Bellairs is responsible for the blood donation service at the Western Province Blood Transfusion Service that operates in Western Cape Province of
South Africa. It is a community based regional health organization formed by an association of voluntary blood donors, dedicated to providing the safest blood products and efficient service to the community.
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