We use single-use temperature and time monitor strips on our blood products when they are being delivered to a more remote location. This will indicate if the maximum storage temperature for the product has been exceeded while in transit and for how long. For information on how to read and use these, please refer to the guide at the bottom of this page. 

This guidance refers to Packed Red Blood Cells (PRBC) and Stored Whole Blood (SWB).

Expiry

Packed Red Blood Cells may be stored for a maximum of 42 days from the date of collection.

Stored Whole Blood may be stored for a maximum of 21 days from the date of collection.

All expiry dates are shown on the product label. When the product has reached its expiry date, it must be discarded as clinical waste.

If you are a blood sharing practice and have a unit of our PRBC that is approaching its expiry date, please contact us. We may be able to arrange for another practice to use it and send you a replacement unit.

Storage and monitoring

PRBC and SWB should be kept at a core temperature of 4°C (+/- 2°C). Variation from the core temperature of 4°C (+/- 2°C) must be kept to a minimum and restricted to only the short period necessary for examining or issuing the product. When unpacking PRBC or SWB, you must remove the unit from the zip lock bag before placing it in the fridge.

In order to ensure red cell products are being stored correctly, it is vital that the correct equipment is used. A dedicated fridge that maintains a temperature of 4°C (+/- 2°C) with a max/min thermometer that is read and recorded twice daily is ideal. Temperatures should be closely monitored for fluctuations and any temperatures outside the normal range reported. Daily visual inspection is advised, and any colour change reported. Gentle inversion of the products several times a week is also advised to ensure additive solutions are mixed with the red cells. You can download and print our blood fridge temperature log below to monitor your units in practice.

If PRBC and SWB are kept outside of the recommended temperature range (i.e. due to equipment failure), red cell products which have been exposed to a core temperature between 1°C and 10°C may be released for transfusion provided:

  • That the component has been exposed to such a temperature change on one occasion only
  • That the duration of the temperature change was under five hours
  • That a documented system is available to cover such eventualities
  • That adequate records of the incident are compiled and retained

If PRBC or SWB are removed from storage to be transfused but are then no longer required, it is recommended that they are returned to the fridge within a maximum of 30 minutes. All products should be discarded after four hours from breach when at room temperature.

Warming

Red cell products can be adversely affected by any sudden change in temperature. A zip lock bag should be used to keep the product clean once it is removed from storage unless being immediately prepared for transfusion. Red cells can be transfused immediately on removal from the fridge. As the fluid passes down the ambient temperature giving set, the blood will increase in temperature to near room temperature. Alternatively, the unit can be allowed to gradually reach ambient temperature for 30 minutes prior to initiating the transfusion. A water bath can be used to give a gradual increase to temperature (always remain under 37°C) for critical patients where fluid warming is deemed paramount.

This guidance refers to Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP), Frozen Plasma (FP), Cryo-Precipitate (Cryo-P) and Cryo-Supernatant (Cryo-S).

Expiry

FFP has an expiry date of 12 months from the date of collection. After 12 months, this product can be relabelled and stored for a further four years as frozen plasma.

FP has an expiry date of five years from the date of collection.

Cryo-P and Cryo-S have an expiry date of 12 months from the date of collection.

All expiry dates are shown on the product label. When the product has reached its expiry date, it must be discarded as clinical waste. The only exception is FFP which can be relabelled as FP as stated above.

Temperature

Plasma products should be stored at a temperature of -18°C or below.

Storage and Monitoring

In order to ensure plasma products are being stored correctly, it is vital that the correct equipment is used. A dedicated freezer that maintains a temperature of -18°C or below with a max/min thermometer that is read and recorded twice daily is ideal. The freezer should not have an auto-defrost as this will significantly decrease the lifespan of plasma. Temperatures should be monitored closely for fluctuations and any temperatures reported outside the normal range reported. Visual inspection should take place prior to plasma products being placed in their storage location to ensure they are undamaged from transit. Although a storage temperature below -18°C improves the preservation of labile coagulation factors, lower temperatures increase the fragility of plasma. Care must be taken when handling such products. You can download and print our plasma freezer temperature log below to monitor your units in practice.

If plasma products are kept outside of the recommended temperature range (i.e. due to equipment failure), plasma products which have been exposed to an increase in core temperature for under four hours at 22°C (+/- 2°C) or 24 hours if stored at 4°C (+/- 2°C) may be refrozen provided:

  • That, in the case of FFP and Cryo-P, the plasma product is relabelled as FP
  • That the plasma product has been exposed to such a temperature change on one occasion only
  • That the duration of the temperature change was under four hours
  • That a documented system is available to cover such eventualities
  • That adequate records of the incident are compiled and retained

If plasma products are removed from storage to be transfused but are then no longer required, the plasma product may be stored and should be used within four hours if maintained at 22°C (+/- 2°C) or 24 hours if stored at 4°C (+/- 2°C). However, it should be kept in mind that extended post-thaw storage will result in a decline of the content of labile coagulation factors. Therefore, any plasma product to be refrozen must be relabelled as FP in the case of FFP and Cryo-P.

Warming

Plasma products are brittle when frozen so care should be taken when storing and handling them. A zip lock bag should be used to keep the products clean once they are removed from storage. Units can be allowed to gradually defrost and reach ambient temperature prior to initiating the transfusion. A 200ml plasma unit will take approximately 3 hours 35 minutes to defrost at room temperature. Alternatively, a water bath can be used to defrost the plasma more quickly, taking 11-15 minutes for a 200ml unit (always remain under 37°C). Half plasma units, Cryo-P and Cryo-S will take less time.