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Filtering, a prerequisite for blood transfusion

Despite the demand for blood increasing in blood banks and hospitals, not many among the public are aware of the need for it to be filtered before transfusion, to avoid developing infections and allergies.

Filtering, a prerequisite for blood transfusion
Blood donation in progress at the Tamil Nadu Multi Super Speciality Hospital in Chennai


Complications, which tend to arise in a recipient, do so when the White Blood Cells (which are cells of the immune system that protect the body against both infectious diseases and foreign invaders) are present in a unit of donated of blood. A recipient can develop fevers and terrible itching. 

Stating that these problems can be overcome by a process called Pre-Storage Leucodepletion, Dr Rema Menon, Head of the Blood Bank at Apollo Hospital, said, “A majority of the recipients become alloimmune to various Red Blood Cells (RBCs) and platelets which lead to problems. It has been proved by research that once you remove these White Blood Cells (WBCs) that were in circulation in a unit of donated blood, reactions come down. 

It is also done in order to improve the quality of treatment.” “All blood products undergo different stages of filtration. These are stored at different temperatures in different environments. Post separation, the platelets and RBCs will pass through a WBC filter, to ensure that the product does not have any leukocytes or WBCs,” said a blood bank officer at a Government Hospital. 

Stating that the timing of the processes is also important, Dr Menon added, “The leukocytes have a very short life. During the process of bedside filtration (after the product has been released from the blood bank and it reaches the bedside), the filters are attached to the product and then the patient is transfused.” 

“People need to know that their blood goes through all of these processes and that WBCs can be harmful as well. Hence, we focussed on the same this World Blood Donors’ Day,” said Bhuvaneshwari, a Government Hospital nurse.

Leucocytes present in donated blood play no therapeutic role in transfusion and may be a cause of adverse transfusion reactions. Leucodepletion is the removal of 99 percent of the leucocytes from the whole blood. It has a number of benefits for transfusion recipients: 
  • Reduced risk of platelet refractoriness 
  • Reduced risk of febrile non-haemolytic transfusion reactions (FNHTR) 
  • Reduction in the incidence 
  • of bacterial contamination of blood components
  • Possible reduced risk of transfusion-associated graft vs host disease  
  • Possible reduction in transfusion related immunomodulatory (TRIM) effects, including cancer recurrence, mortality, non-transfusion transmitted infection 
  • The government has now put a costing on all additional processes; for a red cell filter they allow up to Rs 2,200 and for a platelet filter Rs 1,000.

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