Finnish Red Cross Blood Service deep-freezes rare red cells
The Finnish Red Cross Blood Service has upgraded its capacity to meet the need for components of rare blood types by systematically collecting certain rare blood group red cells and freezing them with a new method that guarantees the red cells will keep for at least ten years.
The Blood Service has introduced new equipment that processes red cells of rare blood types and facilitates their deep-frozen long-term storage. Units are kept at -70ºC, which guarantees they will keep for a minimum of ten years. Deep-frozen red cell units can be used in scheduled operations on patients with a rare blood type.
In the first instance, units of rare Finnish blood types such as Pk, Vel neg and JK:-3 are preserved in the bank of frozen blood. In practice, only some 0.03 per cent of Finnish blood donors are for instance of the Jk:-3 type. The identification of rare blood types requires methods that only the Blood Service has available. When a donor belongs to a rare blood type, he or she receives a separate blood type card and is instructed to prepare well in advance for any potential future blood transfusion due to the rare blood type.
International cooperation in a key role
The bank of rare blood types is vital not only when preparing for surgery, but also in preparation for childbirth. The Finnish Red Cross Blood Service has screened the prenatal blood types and blood group antibodies of all women in Finland for 20 years. This facilitates preparing well in advance for a possible blood transfusion needed in connection with childbirth by a woman who belongs to a rare blood group.
If a donor of a rare blood type is unavailable, and suitable frozen blood is not available, international partners will help. In the past, the FRCBS has ordered blood from for instance Sweden, England, and even as far as South Africa for patients of rare blood groups.
Banks of frozen blood require a diverse range of different rare blood types to facilitate assistance for patients with the same rare blood type. Attention has been paid to locating rarities in various parts of Europe. In Finland, too, donors of African origin, for instance, are requested to provide an extra sample to facilitate the screening of special blood type antigens.