How Safe is Your Blood Bag Supply? How to Monitor Blood Bags in Hospitals

More than safety is at stake. Stay compliant and reduce waste with HemoTemp II. Key Takeaways: U.S. blood supplies are at an all-time low. Improper…

More than safety is at stake. Stay compliant and reduce waste with HemoTemp II.

Key Takeaways:

  • U.S. blood supplies are at an all-time low.
  • Improper storage leads to 200,000 to one million wasted units annually, costing up to $230 million.
  • Patient safety is at risk – improper blood temperature can cause reactions, including sepsis.
  • Monitoring your internal cold chain is vital for safety, waste reduction, and regulatory compliance.
  • The solution? HemoTemp II

Improper storage and transportation of bags containing red blood cells can be life-threatening, especially when exposed to temperatures outside the recommended range. This exposure can cause the red blood cells to rupture, a condition known as hemolysis, or can result in contaminated transfusions, leading to severe infections. Patient safety is at stake, highlighting the importance of proper temperature control for blood bags. 

A recent study of the blood cold chain found that 87% of wasted blood bags resulted from inappropriate temperatures in hospital blood bank centers. Operating rooms were also found to often store blood bags outside of the optimal temperature range. The study emphasized the need for temperature-monitoring indicators to ensure viability.

Protecting patient safety and avoiding waste can be accomplished with indicators like the HemoTemp®II blood bag temperature indicator that offers the time and temperature history of the blood unit. In this article, we’ll explore why temperature monitoring for blood bags is essential, what happens when blood is corrupted, the hospital cold chain, and monitoring challenges and solutions.

The Necessity of Monitoring Blood Bags

For safety and viability, blood bags must be stored and kept at the following temperatures during transport:

  • For red cells: +2°C (35.6°F) 
  • For platelets and leucocytes: between +20°C (68°F) and +24°C (75.2°F)
  • For plasma products: below -18°C (-0.4°F)

After being removed from storage, red cell bags left out for more than 30 minutes cannot be returned to storage, and transfusions must be completed within four hours. While platelets can be stored at room temperature for four-to-six hours, cold storage extends shelf life. Plasma, which is frozen, can be returned to storage only if thawed for less than 30 minutes. 

In medicine, timing is crucial, especially when it comes to blood bags. Without a temperature indicator like HemoTemp II, it’s hard to determine the product’s viability because of the lack of information about its temperature during transport. Without this indicator, we can’t see the temperature of the blood bags.

The Consequences of Not Monitoring Blood Bags

There’s more than one consequence when you don’t monitor your blood bags:

  • Compromised patient safety. Blood bags stored and transported at improper temperatures can cause everything from fever and chills to hemolysis or sepsis.
  • Waste. The American Red Cross, which provides about 40% of blood and its components, has declared an emergency blood shortage. It must be destroyed when corrupted by temperature issues, putting even more stress on the U.S. blood supply.
  • Financial impact. The rate of blood wastage in the U.S. is from 1% to 5% at a cost of $46 million to $230 million annually, and “spoiled” blood plays a large part, amounting to 200,000 to one million wasted units.
  • Liability issues. Blood contamination errors can lead to medical malpractice lawsuits. 

In addition, the FDA has strict guidelines for blood storage and transport. Running afoul of these regulations leads to the seizure of blood products, injunctions, and criminal penalties leading to three years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for the organization. 

Monitoring the Internal Blood Bag Cold Chain

Blood is received, stored, and transported as needed. Assuming that the blood bags have been received at the proper temperature, they must be kept at that temperature. When transported within the hospital, specially designed blood transport boxes that can reliably maintain the proper temperatures must be used. Once the blood reaches the OR, that temperature must be maintained. 

The challenge

Given that blood and blood components must be kept within temperature guidelines, identifying spoilage can be challenging. Not only is patient safety at stake, but a lack of monitoring leads to operational inefficiencies, a lack of emergency preparedness, financial losses, and potential regulatory violations. 

Personnel can’t tell if a blood bag is the right temperature just by feeling it. Objective evidence is needed to prove the contents are viable.

The Solution: HemoTemp II Blood Bag Temperature Indicator

Monitor your hospital’s internal cold chain easily to ensure compliance and safety. HemoTemp® II indicators offer both reversible and irreversible liquid crystal blood bag temperature indicators that show the current temperature to determine its viability quickly and efficiently.

HemoTemp II blood bag indicators are attached to the blood bag’s outside, where blood bank and OR personnel can easily see and monitor them. If an indicator shows that a blood bag has been exposed to temperatures outside the recommended range, appropriate action can be taken to ensure safety and quality.

  • After activation, the irreversible portion will change color from blue to non-blue as the blood temperature increases over 9°C and/or as time passes.
  • Once the irreversible portion of the indicator has lost its blue color, it will not return to its original color even if the blood unit is re-cooled. This ensures the user has the unit’s time and temperature history.
  • The color of the activated indicator depends on product temperature, the time at that temperature, the sample size or mass, and the sample container’s heat transfer characteristics. Because the color change of HemoTemp II indicators is affected by the same variables that affect the time and temperature-sensitive blood bag, these indicators monitor the temperature history.

The REVERSIBLE portion of the HemoTemp® II acts as a blood bag thermometer. It is calibrated to display the internal core temperature of the blood between 1-9°C under ambient conditions (18-26°C) and is accurate to ± 0.5°C. If the blood temperature falls below 1°C or rises above 9°C, no numbers will be visible.

The IRREVERSIBLE portion of the HemoTemp® II Indicator “flower” warns when the core temperature of the blood has exceeded approximately 9°C. After being activated, the irreversible window retains a blue color for at least 48 HOURS if the blood is stored at 3°C and longer if the blood is stored at lower temperatures. If stored at 6°C, the irreversible window will remain blue for 10-12 hours. As the blood is warmed, the irreversible indicator changes from BLUE to light blue, to gray, and finally to a brownish color if the blood bag warms to over 9°C.

By leveraging SpotSee’s HemoTemp II, you can ensure your blood bags are safe for patients, meet regulatory requirements, and reduce wastage. Find out how we can help you – Contact us today for more information.