Core and surface temperatures in a red-blood-cell unit during storage and transport


Thomas Wagner, MD, Department of Blood Group Serology and Transfusion Medicine, Medical University of Graz, Auenbruggerplatz 3, A-8036 Graz, Austria


Background and Objectives  Temperature tracing of stored red-blood-cell concentrates (RBCs) is inevitable with respect to RBC quality control. RBC temperature, which should not exceed 10°C, is usually assessed by devices attached to the surface of the RBC pouch, assuming that surface temperature adequately represents the thermal state of RBC. We investigated under which conditions this assumption is true.

Materials and Methods  Eighteen thermocouples (TC) equidistantly mounted on a two-layer plastic grid were installed in a pouch to determine temperature distribution in the unit. Two TCs were attached to each side of the bag to evaluate surface temperatures. One was further installed in each investigation room to assess ambient room temperatures. Temperature distributions and time–temperature courses were measured under constant temperatures and various warming and cooling conditions.

Results  At homogeneous storage temperatures, only small gradients were measured between core and surface temperatures. Removed from cooling chamber to room temperature or back from room to storage temperature, core and surface time–temperature curves drifted apart. Surface and core temperature diverged the more, the faster ambient temperatures altered. The situation could be stabilized by thermal isolation: handled in a transport box, or even better in an air cushion envelope, surface and core courses approached and ultimately closely followed each other, respectively.

Conclusion  RBC temperature monitoring devices attached to the surface of the RBC pouch very well describe the core temperature under constant temperature conditions. During transport, thermal isolation of the RBC unit is necessary to control RBC temperature precisely by surface temperature measurements.