Impact of constant storage temperatures and multiple warming cycles on the quality of stored red blood cells




Red blood cells (RBCs) are routinely stored in liquid state at temperatures below 6°C, and RBC unit core temperature should not exceed 10°C during transport. Since the critical temperature of 10°C was chosen mostly arbitrarily, this study investigated the effect of both constant temperature settings as well as multiple rewarming cycles on stored RBCs with respect to morphology, biochemical parameters and haemolysis.

Materials and Methods

Buffy coat-depleted filtered RBCs were used as standard products. RBCs were stored at 1–6°C (reference group, n = 12), 13 and 22°C (test groups, n = 12 each) or stored at 1–6°C and warmed up five times to 10, 13, or 22°C for a period of 24 h each. Various biochemical parameters were measured weekly. RBCs were further investigated using electron microscopy.


Red blood cells stored constantly at 13 or 22°C showed stable haemolysis rates until day 28 and day 14, respectively. RBCs stored at 1–6°C with five warming-up periods to 10, 13 or 22°C each lasting 24 h (total 120 h) did not exceed the limit of the haemolysis rate at the end of storage. Differently shaped erythrocytes were found in all samples, but more crenate erythrocytes appeared after 42 days of storage independent of temperature profiles.


Red cells can be kept at constant temperatures above 6°C without apparent harmful effects at least until day 14, whereas multiple warming cycles for no longer than 24 h at 10, 13 or 22°C with subsequent cooling do not cause quality loss as assessed using the in vitro assays employed in this study.