BACKGROUND: A 30-minute rule was established to limit red blood cell (RBC) exposure to uncontrolled temperatures during storage and transportation. Also, RBC units issued for transfusion should not remain at room temperature (RT) for more than 4 hours (4-hour rule). This study was aimed at determining if single or multiple RT exposures affect RBC quality and/or promote bacterial growth.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Growth and RT exposure experiments were performed in RBCs inoculated with Serratia liquefaciens and Serratia marcescens. RBCs were exposed once to RT for 5 hours (S. liquefaciens) or five times to RT for 30 minutes (S. marcescens) with periodic sampling for bacterial counts. Noncontaminated units were exposed to RT once (5 hr) or five times (30 min each) and sampled to measure in vitro quality variables. RBC core temperature was monitored using mock units with temperature loggers. Growth and RT exposure experiments were repeated three and at least six times, respectively. Statistical analysis was done using mixed-model analysis.
RESULTS: RBC core temperature ranged from 7.3 to 11.6°C during 30-minute RT exposures and the time to reach 10°C varied from 22 to 55 minutes during 5-hour RT exposures. RBC quality was preserved after single or multiple RT exposures. Increased growth of S. liquefaciens was only observed after 2 hours of continuous RT exposure. S. marcescens concentration increased significantly in multiple-exposed units compared to the controls but did not reach clinically important levels.
CONCLUSION: Single or multiple RT exposures did not affect RBC quality but slightly promoted bacterial growth in contaminated units. The clinical significance of these results remains unclear and needs further investigation.