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 is why Belgian Red Cross-Flanders continuously collects blood everywhere in Flanders. Because it is incredibly important that we always have enough in stock. That's what we stand for. Thanks to you, our donors, we can provide our hospitals with life-saving, safe blood products.
From donor to recipient
From collection to administration to the patient. Blood, plasma and platelets go a long way. These are the 7 steps in the process of blood supply.
1. Giving blood in a safe way
Everywhere in Flanders we organize blood sampling. For Red Cross-Flanders it is a top priority that this is done 100% safely.
Safety of donor
Collecting blood products (blood, plasma or platelets)? In most people, this 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.
2. Processing the donation
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. Platelets are administered to patients with bleeding after chemotherapy, among other things.
3. Thorough testing of blood, plasma and platelets.
No matter how often someone donates, we test the given blood, plasma or platelets as thoroughly each time. This is how we ensure maximum safety of the blood product.
Bij het analyseren van bloedstalen bepalen we de bloedgroep en het aantal van de verschillende types bloedcellen. We testen alle bloedstalen ook op de aanwezigheid van hiv, hepatitis B en C en syfilis. Bij een afwijkend testresultaat brengen we de donor schriftelijk op de hoogte.
Every day we test several thousand blood samples. After testing, we quarantine the blood products until we are 100% sure we can release them.
4. 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.
5. Keeping blood product in perfect conditions
During the entire process - from collection to administration to a patient - we carefully store blood products in refrigerated and freezer cells. 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 store at 22°C. They must be kept constantly moving in a storage liquid.
6. Supplying blood, plasma and platelets to hospitals.
We continuously supply blood products to the hospitals. Several times a week we visit them to maintain the stock in the hospital blood bank. Of course, we are ready 24/7 to deliver the necessary bags of blood, plasma and platelets in unexpected or urgent situations. During transport, we guarantee maximum safety and ensure optimal storage conditions for the blood products.
7. Levens redden
Since the collection, the blood, plasma and platelets have gone through quite a journey. But now it is finally here: in the hospital, the blood product is administered to someone who needs it. Good to know: with 1 bag of blood we can help several people.
All over Flanders, we collect blood and supply hospitals with safe blood products. We strive for an ever better and faster service. One way we can guarantee this is by doing good research into (our) blood products.
Lots of unresolved questions
Our Transfusion Research Center (TReC) investigates biological, biochemical and biomedical questions about the collection, preparation, preservation, function and quality of blood products.
The team of scientists focuses mainly on platelets and their role in treating bleeding. Taken platelets, unlike blood plasma and red blood cells, cannot currently be stored for long periods of time. There are many unresolved questions. Why can't they be refrigerated or frozen? Why do they no longer work properly after 5 to 7 days of preservation? What new techniques can we incorporate into platelet preservation? Our scientists at TreC are looking for the answer.