BACKGROUND: Quality assurance of blood transfusion covers institutions, personnel, and procedures involved in preparing, issuing, and using blood components. The accuracy of data related to blood component transfusions is a tool for quality control in the transfusion service.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: A study of the accuracy of data records of the transfusion service at the University Hospital of Erlangen, Germany, between June 1994 and May 1996 was carried out. All returned blood component transfusion report forms were examined for discrepancies between primary data records and clinical transfusion reports.

RESULSTS: Blood components (n = 49,224) from allogeneic and autologous donations, packed red cells, fresh-frozen plasma, and platelet components that had been issued for transfusion were included in this evaluation. For 27.3 percent of all components issued, no transfusion report was returned to the blood bank. For the remaining 35,786 units, errors were found in 3.8 percent of the records. For 1.24 percent of all components, discrepant information related to the recipient's identity or the component's status was found; this affected the feasibility of lookback or traceback searches.

CONCLUSION: A remarkably high frequency of discrepancies exists between computerized blood bank records and the information recorded on returned blood transfusion forms. The processes of data acquisition and entry must be included in quality assurance efforts in transfusion medicine.