The ‘cherry buffy-coat syndrome’, a cause of decreased platelet yield in platelet concentrates obtained from buffy-coats


: Paolo Rebulla, Centro Trasfusionale e di Immunologia dei Trapianti, IRCCS Ospedale Maggiore, via Francesco Sforza 35, 20122 Milano, Italy Tel.: +39 02 5503 4021 Fax: +39 02 5458 129 E-mail:


Background and Objectives

A large number of European blood centres, including our own, use the buffy-coat method for platelet production. In this article we describe a previously unnoticed phenomenon shown by a proportion of buffy-coats, which display an unusually bright cherry colour and low platelet counts.

Materials and Methods

We performed bacterial cultures, platelet counts, pO2, pCO2 and pH, and evaluated platelet activation by flow cytometry in cherry versus normal-colour (control) buffy-coats. In addition, we compared donor characteristics in the two groups and platelet counts in the packed red blood cells (RBC) obtained from the original donations. Finally, we monitored the frequency of cherry buffy-coats in the bags of three manufacturers, and determined the concordance rate of two trained technicians in detecting cherry buffy-coats.


Bacterial cultures were negative. Cherry buffy-coats contained significantly fewer platelets, more O2, less CO2 and had a significantly higher pH than normal buffy coats. Platelet activation was slightly higher in cherry buffy-coats. RBC from donations yielding cherry buffy-coats contained a significantly higher number of platelets than controls. Donor characteristics were not significantly different. Cherry buffy-coats were significantly more frequent with bags from one manufacturer (24%) than from others (9% and 11·6%). The concordance study showed excellent agreement.


Our hypothesis is that the cherry colour is caused by O2 accumulation in buffy-coats with low platelet counts. The latter may be caused by platelet activation and aggregation during blood processing. Further work is needed to determine the cause of this phenomenon, its frequency in different laboratories and means to prevent it.