Red cell irradiation – time for a change?

What is this research about?

Transfusion of red blood cells (RBCs) is a life-saving procedure. However, transfusion is not without risk. In very rare cases, transfusion can cause an often fatal disease called Transfusion Associated Graft versus Host Disease (TA-GvHD). TA-GvHD occurs when donor white blood cells, transfused along with the RBCs, take up residence in the recipient’s body. The donor white blood cells sense that they are in an incompatible host and attempt to "reject" the recipient. To reduce the risk of TA-GvHD, RBCs are separated by centrifugation from the other portions of a whole blood donation and subsequently filtered to further remove white blood cells (leukoreduced).

In brief: Current Canadian guidelines on irradiation of red blood cell units may not be enough to ensure transfusion of high quality units - depending on when irradiation takes place, irradiated units may show higher than acceptable levels of red blood cell damage.

Collected March 2014