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Pretransfusion testing for red blood cell transfusion

Lynne Uhl, MD
Section Editor
Arthur J Silvergleid, MD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer S Tirnauer, MD


Safe transfusion of red blood cells (RBC) is possible because donor RBC units can be selected for their compatibility with the recipient's blood type. Transfused RBC units do not need to be antigenically identical to the recipient's RBCs, but they do need to lack antigens that could provoke clinically significant hemolysis in the recipient (eg, a blood group A donor unit transfused to a blood group O recipient).

This topic discusses the practical aspects of compatibility testing and interpretation of potential results from this testing.

Separate topic reviews provide an overview of RBC antigens and their clinical significance, management of the patient for whom compatible cells cannot be found, practical aspects of blood transfusion, and management of hemolytic transfusion reactions. (See "Red blood cell antigens and antibodies" and "The incompatible crossmatch" and "Red blood cell transfusion in adults: Storage, specialized modifications, and infusion parameters", section on 'Specialized modifications' and "Hemolytic transfusion reactions".)


Terms that may be helpful in accurate communication regarding desired testing and interpretation of results from compatibility testing include the following:

AABB – An international organization that provides technical input and guidance on standards and accreditation for transfusion practice and cellular therapies. AABB publishes a technical manual approximately every three years and standards for blood banks and transfusion services as well as cellular therapy every two years. The organization was formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks; the name was changed to AABB in 2005 to reflect its expanded (international) scope.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Dec 07, 2017.
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