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Category Archives: Blood Donation

Clinical services


Haemovigilance Reports

Haemovigilance is a surveillance system that focuses on improvement of processes and procedures and prevention of the recurrence of transfusion related reactions.

This is achieved by continuous collection and analysis of data on reactions related to the transfusion of blood products.

Haemovigilance is an integral part of providing a safe blood supply to all patients of South Africa.

It is important to note that Haemovigilance can only contribute if there is a comprehensive quality system in place, based on principles of current good manufacturing, Laboratory and Clinical (Hospital) practice.

 The success of the programme in contributing to safe blood supply depends on cooperation from all stakeholders and reporting of all possible transfusion reactions accurately and timeously.

The table below provides necessary Haemovigilance reports and an additional information leaflet on Haemovigilance.

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Specialised services

Molecular R&D

Molecular Research and Development

The Molecular Research and Development Section provides support to the Specialised Laboratory Services (SLS) Department, by researching and developing current technologies and keeping abreast with the new advances in technology allows us to achieve the level of excellence and service provided by blood transfusion services worldwide.

A major part of molecular research and development is the evaluation of new reagents/techniques and platforms including next generation sequencing (NGS) suitable for the South African environment.

The formation of a Molecular Hub at both the Constantia Kloof and the new Mount Edgecombe (currently at Pinetown) premises will become a centralized area where molecular based processes will be optimized and developed in a state-of-art facility with multi-skilled cross functional staff. Fully automated, optimized and streamlined workflows will be implemented, research and publications of novel data will be encouraged, post-graduate studies will be supported in this field and collaborations both nationally and internationally will be initiated.


SANBS is a leader in offering state of the art genotyping technology for Human Leucocyte Antigen (HLA), Red Blood Cell (RBC) genetic analysis and human platelet antigen (HPA) characterisation. Through continuous development and innovations SANBS introduced red blood cell genotyping of 11 blood group systems in one test for high throughput genotyping and a fully automated real-time red cell genotyping assay for individual red cell genotyping of up to 13 blood groups including RHCE and RHD gene in one assay. The market will continued to be scanned for more cost-effective and cost-efficient procedures.


A major impact in testing became possible following the introduction of next generation sequencing (NGS) as HLA NGS tests revealed the uniqueness of the South African population and the need to characterize the various ethnic groups within South Africa.

HLA NGS provides high resolution HLA typing to improve the chances of finding more donor-recipient solid organ and bone marrow matches.


  1. Recent advances in technology allowed for the evaluation of an ABO next generation sequencing assay that followed HLA in highlighting the uniqueness of the South African population. In the pipeline is an evaluation of an RH NGS assay.
  2. KIR (Killer-Immunoglobulin-like Receptor) Typing – KIR typing has been implemented in R&D to explore further the KIR-HLA and KIR-HIV associations for the role of KIR in the reduction of graft-vs-Host disease and in HIV disease progression.
  3. Centre oExcellence for HLA NGS testing to build technical capacity and experience in interpretation and analysis of next generation sequencing results. This will be run in conjunction with the Translational Research section and offers an opportunity to train and develop people both in South Africa and Africa.

Contact details
Molecular Research and Development laboratory – 031 719 6953/6512


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Blood products

Blood products

The transfusion requirements of a patient are determined by clinical status and laboratory results. Transfusion decisions should take into account the clinical transfusion guidelines, modified to patient needs, and ensuring that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Please know that the blood banks treat all patient and donor information and data confidential and comply with the POPI (Protection of Personal Information) act.

Informed consent must be obtained from the patient for all transfusions of blood or blood products.

In line with the Standards for Practice of Blood Transfusion in SA, no blood products may be issued without the signature of the Medical Practitioner on the Cross match Request Form or a person acting on his/her instructions. All patients’ details on the request form and specimen label must agree.

1.Red Cell Products

Red Cell Products should be stored between 1°C – 6°C

  • Red Cell Concentrate in additive solution, Buffy coat removed

    What is it used for: To increase tissue oxygenation due to reduced haemoglobin concentration.
  • Red Cell Concentrate (Leucodepleted)

    What is it used for: To increase tissue oxygenation due to reduced haemoglobin concentration, when the recipient may receive repeated transfusions.
  • Red Cell Concentrate in additive solution

    What is it used for: To increase tissue oxygenation due to reduced haemoglobin concentration.
  •  Red Cell Concentrate Paediatric (Leucodepleted)

    What is it used for: To increase tissue oxygenation in paediatrics due to reduced haemoglobin concentration, when the recipient may receive repeated transfusions.

2.Whole Blood (<5 days old)

  • Whole Blood Leucodepleted ( <5 Days old)

    What is it used for: Neonatal exchange transfusion.

3. Platelets products

Platelets should be used immediately after issue. They should not be refrigerated.

  • Platelet Concentrate Pooled Non-leucodepleted

    What is it used for: Thrombocytopaenia or platelet function abnormalities
  • Platelet Concentrate Leucodepleted (Apheresis)

    What is it used for: Thrombocytopaenia or platelet function abnormalities
  • Platelet Concentrate Paediatric Leucodepleted

    What is it used for: Thrombocytopaenia or platelet function abnormalities in paediatrics.

4. Plasma products

Donor re-tested – Issued only after subsequent donation from the same donor has been re-tested, and found negative for markers of transmissible diseases. MUST BE TRANSFUSED IMMEDIATELY AFTER ISSUE

  • Cryoprecipitate

    What is it used for: Hypofibrinogenaemia and factor Xlll deficiency
  • Fresh Frozen Plasma – Adult and Paediatric

    What is it used for: For clotting factors
  • FFP – (Cryo-poor)

    What is it used for: TTP
  • Special requests

    Contact the blood bank. Advance notice is required.

What is Plasma?

Plasma is the liquid part of your blood in which red cells, white cells and platelets are suspended. It carries these components throughout the body and makes up about 55% of your total blood volume. Plasma also contains antibodies, clotting factors and proteins such as albumin and fibrinogen.

You donate a bit of plasma when you make a normal whole blood donation, but you can also donate plasma only. This is done through a process called plasmapheresis or source plasma donation where plasma is separated and collected while the red cells, white cells and platelets are returned to your body.

Who should donate plasma?

Although anyone who meets normal donation criteria can donate plasma, we specifically need blood group A and AB donors aged 18 to 65 years to consider donating this special source plasma.

How often can I donate plasma?

You can donate plasma every two weeks to a maximum of 24 times a year.

Where can I donate plasma?

Please speak to your local blood donation Centre or contact our toll free number (0800 119 031) to find out where you can donate plasma today.

Irradiated Products

For the prevention of transfusion-associated graft-versus host disease

5. HLA-matched platelets concentrate

Single donor apheresis platelet concentrate

6. Other special services

Autologous and Directed Programmes

Washed products

Cryo-preserved Cells

For trusfusion medicine consultation 

Please contact the nearest Blood Bank for doctor on call


  • Prevention of transfusion transmitted CMV.
  • Potential haemopoietic transplant recipients.
  • Intrauterine transfusions and children <1 year of age.
  • Prevention of febrile non-haemolytic transfusion reactions.

Leucocyte deleted (leucodepleted) products

Filtered under laboratory conditions. This ensures optimal removal of leucocytes to minimise cytokine release. Leukocyte depletion will result in a leukocyte count of <5 x 106 per unit and usually <1 x 106 per unit.


  • Blood administration set: For the infusion of whole blood and red cell concentrate.
  • Platelet administration set: For the infusion of platelets.
  • Blood pack without anticoagulant: For therapeutic bleeding.
  • Blood pack with anticoagulant: For blood salvage and subsequent autologous re-infusion.

Types of crossmatch

Type and Screen

The specimen will be grouped and tested to ensure that it does not contain antibodies which could delay finding compatible blood. The specimen will be held for 96 hours. Blood will only be cross-matched when requested by the attending doctor.

  • Standard Cross-match is done within 2 hours
  • Emergency cross-match requires 20 – 30 minutes
  • No cross-match requires 5 – 10 minutes
  • Post-Natal within 2hours

Blood issued on emergency or without compatibility test is transfused at the attending doctor’s own responsibility. There are risks involved in emergency procedures – use them only for genuine emergencies.

Cross-matched products will be held in reserve for 24 hours unless otherwise indicated by the attending doctor.

Blood returnable basis (BRB)

Blood is transported in a temperature controlled hamper. Provided the blood is returned within 10 hours of issue, remains sealed in the hamper and the temperature of the hamper does not exceed 10 C, the fee for the blood will fall away. However, the service and laboratory test charge will be levied.

Informed consent

As with any treatment, the patient has the right to decide whether or not to accept the treatment. As far as possible the patient should understand the benefits, risks and alternatives to transfusion as explained by the prescribing doctor. Informed consent is a process which must be acknowledged and documented.


Types of donation

Whole blood Donations

Donating a unit of blood for a patient. This unit of blood can be processed into 3 components namely red cells, platelets and plasma. The components are used to save 3 lives.

This process takes approximately 30 minutes to donate.

Platelets Donations

Platelets play a vital role in blood clotting and prevention of excess blood loss. The blood is processed through a cell separator, which retains the platelets and returns the other blood components to the donor’s system. This procedure enables people to donate platelets every month.

Platelet donation is a simple process that takes about an hour and a half to complete.

Plasma Donations​

Plasma donation is a similar process to platelet donation, and takes about 90 minutes. The blood is processed through a cell separating machine that filters out the plasma and returns the red cells and other cellular components to the donor’s system.

Plasma can be donated every 2 weeks where possible.

Autologous Donations

Other specialised donations include Autologous donation where you donate blood for yourself before a pre-planned surgery and designated donation where your family and friends donate blood for you.

Please contact the call centre for more information as this is specialised donation.


Blood types

Blood is life

From the day that human life is conceived, blood fulfils a life giving and nurturing role. Blood is the fluid of growth, transporting nourishment from digestion and hormones from glands throughout the body. Blood is the fluid of health, transporting disease fighting substances to the tissue and body waste to the kidneys.

Because it contains living cells, blood is alive. Unlike medications that are manufactured, blood cannot be manufactured. Healthy donors are the only source of blood for those who need it.

If it was not for blood donors, life-saving medical treatment for children with life threatening anaemia, trauma victims, women with pregnancy related complications, organ transplants, bone marrow transplants, complicated surgical procedures and cancer treatments would not be possible.

What is your type?

The differences in human blood are due to the presence or absence of certain protein molecules called antigens and antibodies. The antigens are located on the surface of the red blood cells and the antibodies are in the blood plasma. Individuals have different types and combinations of these molecules.

The blood group you belong to depends on what you have inherited from your parents.

To date, more than 20 genetically determined blood group systems exist, but the AB0 and Rh blood group systems are the most important ones used for blood transfusions.

Not all blood groups are compatible with each other. Mixing incompatible blood groups leads to blood clumping, or agglutination, which is dangerous for individuals.

What is the significance of my blood group?

All donors belong to one of four blood groups: A, B, AB or O.  You are also classified as either Rh positive or Rh negative. There are therefore eight different main blood groups.

Not all blood groups are compatible with each other and the success of modern transfusion medicine depends on classifying and matching donors and patients correctly.

Group O blood is known as the universal blood type, as it can be given to patients of any blood group.

Rh Factor blood grouping system

Many people also have a so-called Rh factor on the red blood cell surface. This is also an antigen and those who have it are called Rh+. Those who haven’t are called Rh-.

A person with Rh- blood does not have Rh antibodies naturally in the blood plasma (as one can have A or B antibodies, for instance). But a person with Rh- blood can develop Rh antibodies in the blood plasma if he or she receives blood from a person with Rh+ blood, whose Rh antigens can trigger the production of Rh antibodies. A person with Rh+ blood can receive blood from a person with Rh- blood without any problems.

Nobel Laureate Karl Landsteiner was involved in the discovery of both the AB0 and Rh blood groups.


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