Keeping Blood Products Cold During Dispensing

Tests show that gel blankets significantly help maintain temps below 6oC

Test Blood Bag Warming using reusable ice packsOn a recent visit to a blood bank customer who uses Safe-T-Vue 6, we learned something that we felt was worth sharing. During the approximate 10 minutes that it often took to do paperwork and cross-matching, they sometimes experienced the Safe-T-Vue 6 (STV-6) “tripping.” This caused concern that the blood product may have been compromised by room temperature exposure, even for a seemingly short time period.

To address this problem, they began using refrigerated gel blankets (reusable ice pack sheets) to keep the blood product cool. Taking this simple step of placing the blanket around the blood bag(s) during preparation and before transport to the ER/OR has given them confidence that the blood product has been kept cool, and the STV-6 provides visual indication and reassurance that 6°C has not been exceeded.

Wanting to learn just how much the gel blanket helped, we turned to Marielle Smith, Technical Service Scientist in our Temptime Lab, to do some testing. You may be surprised by what we learned.

Read this VUEPOINT to see the test procedure and learn from the detailed data we gathered. It may inspire you to try gel blankets in your blood bank!

Tests to compare blood bag warming with and without refrigerated gel blankets

When blood banks are preparing refrigerated blood bags for transport to the OR/ER, there is limited time for blood bank personnel to record the necessary patient information (cross-check, paperwork, etc.) before the blood approaches critical temperatures. Many blood banks use Safe-T-Vue 6 for exactly this reason.

Previous studies have shown that bags warm quickly to temperatures (6.0°C in less than 10 minutes) rendering the blood unsuitable for use. Results from this new study, however, demonstrate that using a refrigerated gel blanket (such as the Thermafreeze Reusable Ice Pack Sheet) makes a significant difference in slowing the warming rate when the blood product is removed from refrigeration to typical room temperature conditions.

Test procedure setup

A test was performed to assess whether using a refrigerated gel blanket can add to the longevity of the blood bags upon removal from refrigerated storage (1°C – 4°C).

The test was setup to collect temperature data as follows:

1. Control, single bag with no gel blanket
2. Single bag with small gel blanket, cutout window (to view Safe-T-Vue 6)
3. Three bags with larger gel blanket

Six (6) bags of 350 mL simulated red blood cells volume were used for scenarios 1 and 2, and 18 bags were used for scenario 3.

Reusable Ice Pack Sheets (e.g., gel blanket) were obtained and cut into different dimensions to allow for testing either a single bag (with a window cut-out to view the Safe-T-Vue 6 indicator) or 3 bags side-by-side.

Small gel blanket with viewing window for 1 bag

Large gel blanket for 3 bags

Temperature measurement

Calibrated temperature probes were inserted into each of the simulated blood bags. Calibrated electronic thermometers (accuracy of at least ±0.1°C) were used to record the temperature of the fluid inside the filled blood bags.

After pre-conditioning in the refrigerator (maintained between 1°C to 4°C) for at least 24 hours, the bags and the gel blankets were removed and placed lying flat on a counter-top at room temperature conditions (19°C ± 1°C with 50% R.H). A timer was set to count-up mode and temperature readings were recorded at one minute intervals until the temperature inside the bag reached 6°C.

Test results

The data points on the graph below show the gradual warming of the bags as the refrigerated blood bags warm to 6.0°C in room temperature conditions when the blood bag is either wrapped in a refrigerated gel blanket, or left as is upon removal from refrigerated storage (control).

Summary

  • Without using a gel blanket, blood bags warmed from 3.2°C to 6.0°C in approximately 9 minutes
  • Using a small gel blanket (with a window cut out to allow for visual interpretation of the Safe-T-Vue 6 indicator), blood bags warmed to 6.0°C in approximately 25 minutes
  • Using a large gel blanket for testing up to 3 bags side-by-side, blood bags warmed to 6.0°C in approximately 32 minutes

Conclusions and recommendations

The results presented in this report support that a pre-conditioned refrigerated gel blanket can be wrapped around blood products to keep the blood below 6°C for an extended period of time – while blood bank personnel are preparing the blood for transport to the ER/OR.

When a simulated blood bag was wrapped in a refrigerated gel blanket upon removal from refrigerated storage (1°C to 4°C), the bag warmed to 6.0°C within about 25 to 32 minutes on a counter at room temperature conditions. As an added precaution, a Safe-T-Vue 6 indicator can be used to provide irreversible visual indication of temperature excursions beyond 6.0°C.

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