Regulating Blood Temperature – Blood Banks and Biorepositories
Blood is an expensive business, even if the base product comes from donations. That’s why regulating blood temperature for blood banks and biorepositories is more important than ever. Worldwide, current blood supplies sit at around 100 million units. Each unit (which includes about 450 milliliters), requires extensive supervision, regulation, transportation, processing, and temperature control.
Best Practices for Storing Blood
Blood banks and biorepositories have to adhere to certain regulations and practices to ensure viability. Many of the best practices for storing blood relate to temperature, which can be difficult for staff to manage. Because temperature regulation relies heavily on equipment, staff may struggle to record and maintain proper temperatures.
The common best practices for storing blood include:
Practicing Proper Storage Length
In general, most blood specimens are used within six weeks of storing them. However, over time, red blood cells begin losing the ability to carry oxygen. New research is showing new data that may cause us to rethink this timeline, though. Johns Hopkins University released a study in 2013 showing that blood may start losing the ability to carry oxygen by three weeks. This is because red blood cells lose membrane flexibility over time, which is what allows them to carry oxygen.
Storing at Correct Temperatures
Various blood components need different storage temperatures to remain stable. For example, whole blood can be stored between 2 and 6 degrees celsius. On the other hand, components like plasma (also called fresh frozen plasma, or FFP) need to be frozen at temperatures between -20 to -27 degrees celsius.
The equipment storing the specimens, such as blood refrigerators and freezers, cannot be the typical residential type. They must be certified to specific standards, and have the ability to maintain low enough temperatures.
Current CDC guidelines dictate that storage temperatures need verification twice daily. Once at the beginning of the day, and again at the end of the day. Likewise, the temperature should be checked whenever retrieving specimens from the cold storage. Staff must record the temperature readings from the beginning and end of the day. These records should be kept for several years, although the timeline does vary by region and regulatory agency.
Maintaining Proper Records
Keeping proper records is crucial with any human biospecimen storage. While the CDC recommends recording temperatures twice daily, other organizations have even more stringent rules.
For example, the MEDIC organization dictates:
- Storage units must record temperatures every four hours
- Any equipment failure must be recorded and reported
- Alarms for temperature excursions should be reported and properly documented
- If a blood refrigerator fails, temperatures should be recorded every 30 minutes until repaired
- Supervisors must inspect all samples in storage daily, and record their review
- Recorders and thermometers must read within 1 celsius of another
- If recorders and thermometers show a greater difference, they must be calibrated
Depending on the regulatory agency, there are various levels of recording for specimens. This can place extra burden on the staff, although it’s necessary to verify the viability of blood samples. If biorepositories or blood banks use automated loggers, much of this extra work is avoidable. Not only that, but staff can ensure more accurate records with minimal effort.
Simplifying the Process
The aforementioned ‘best practices’ center primarily on regulation. That’s nothing to say of the other practices blood banks and biorepositories must adhere to, regarding sampling, testing, and distributing. Every step of the blood chain is a complex machine of its own with numerous moving gears.
With such a delicate and complex process, there are endless opportunities for error. Not only that, it also takes a lot of labor to manage. Using the proper equipment to aid regulating blood storage is the first step to simplifying the entire process. While some blood storage refrigerators do contain recording units, few record temperatures more frequently than every few hours. Should an alarm system also fail, an entire storage unit of blood specimens can spoil.
A temperature logger essentially eliminates all these issues, in one simple step. Staff can install the temperature logger in the storage unit and let it do the work of recording and setting alarms for temperature failure. These loggers also do the work of recording all temperature readings, as well as alarms. Then, all the logs are stored for future reference.
Temperature loggers record temperature readings every few minutes, far beyond what any regulatory agency requires. Should a refrigerator alarm fail, the temperature logger sends an alert to designated staff and supervisors. These loggers are even a failsafe in case of a power outage. While a storage refrigerator can’t send an alarm during a power outage, the logger will. Because readings are uploaded every few minutes, the system detects a critical failure when the readings are absent, and sends out an alert.