Blood activities

For a lot of sick people, it is vital. Even in traffic accidents, surgery or childbirth. Blood has to be there. Every day. To save lives. That's why Belgian Red Cross-Flanders continuously collects blood everywhere in Flanders. Because it is incredibly important that we always have enough in stock. That is what we guarantee. Thanks to you, our donors, we can provide our hospitals with life-saving, safe blood products.

Provided with safe and sufficient blood

All over Flanders, we organize blood sampling. For Belgian Red Cross-Flanders it is a top priority that this is done 100% safely.

Safety of donor

Taking blood products (blood, plasma or platelets)? In most people, it goes smoothly, safely and without discomfort. Because a donation should never be harmful to the donor, a doctor always discusses his health condition beforehand. This is because certain conditions (e.g., cardiovascular, blood or kidney diseases) may pose an increased risk of unwanted side effects.

Safety of receiver

We absolutely want to prevent our blood products from transmitting infections. This is why we ask donors to report certain risk situations. Not only risks due to sexual contact or blood contact, for example after a tattoo or piercing. Also risks due to a stay abroad. Thanks to our scientifically based donor selection criteria, Belgium is one of the safest countries in terms of blood transfusion.

Donation processing

After collection, we process the blood products immediately. During that process, we monitor safety and quality. We do the processing as efficiently as possible so that we can deliver to hospitals on time.

Blood is made up of different components. These can be useful to several patients in different ways. That's why we split blood into red blood cells and plasma. Sometimes we also extract a third component: platelets. A bag of plasma is further processed into albumin, clotting factors and antibodies. After viral inactivation, plasma may also be administered to a patient as a whole. Among other things, platelets are administered to patients who have an increased risk of bleeding after chemotherapy.

Thorough testing of blood, plasma and platelets

No matter how often someone donates, we test the donation just as thoroughly each time. This is how we ensure maximum safety of the blood product.

When analyzing blood samples, we determine blood type and the number of different types of blood cells. We also test all blood samples for the presence of HIV, hepatitis B and C and syphilis. In case of an abnormal test result, we notify the donor in writing.

Every day we test several thousand blood samples. During testing, we quarantine the blood products until we are 100% sure we can release them.

Release of blood product

After processing and testing, we can release the blood product. We do so only when:

  • the donor meets all requirements;
  • the processing process proceeded correctly;
  • the blood product scored well on all lab tests.

When we are certain that these 3 conditions are met, we release the blood products for preservation and distribution.

Keeping blood product in perfect conditions

During the entire process - from collection to administration to a patient - we carefully store the blood products in the right conditions. Via a monitoring system, we monitor the temperature 24 hours a day. In doing so, we carefully follow all legal criteria and quality regulations.

  • Red blood cells can be stored in refrigerators between 2 and 6°C for up to 42 days.
  • Plasma is quickly frozen to a temperature of -30°C and then stored at less than -25°C. It remains usable for up to 3 years.
  • Platelets have a shelf life of only 5 days and we store them at 22°C. They must be kept constantly moving in a storage liquid.

Matching donor and patient for transplantation 

In transplantation, it is important that the tissue type of the donor matches that of the patient as closely as possible. The most important protein here is human leukocyte antigen(HLA), which is present on almost all cells of the body. The HILA lab at Belgian Red Cross-Flanders is responsible for the tissue typing and HLA matching of all organ transplant centers in Flanders.

To verify that a theoretically good HLA match will be compatible in practice, a cross-match is performed in the lab just before transplantation using cells from the donor and serum from the patient. 

More than 500 organ transplants occurred in Flanders in 2023, all of which were HLA typed in HILA. 

Matching donor and patient for transfusion

Giving blood, we literally do it for each other. That you are certainly helping someone out of need with your donation is a fact. But did you know that not all blood is suitable for everyone? Who you can give blood to and from depends on your blood type and rhesus factor.

Find out here