BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Paediatric blood transfusion for severe anaemia in hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa remains common. Yet, reports describing the haematological quality of donor blood or storage duration in routine practice are very limited. Both factors are likely to affect transfusion outcomes.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We undertook three audits examining the distribution of pack types, haematological quality and storage duration of donor blood used in a paediatric clinical trial of blood at four hospitals in Africa (Uganda and Malawi).
RESULTS: The overall distribution of whole blood, packed cells (plasma-reduced by centrifugation) and red cell concentrates (RCC) (plasma-reduced by gravity-dependent sedimentation) used in a randomised trial was 40·7% (N = 1215), 22·4% (N = 669) and 36·8% (N = 1099), respectively. The first audit found similar median haematocrits of 57·0% (50·0,74·0), 64·0% (52·0,72·5; P = 0·238 vs. whole blood) and 56·0% (48·0,67·0; P = 0·462) in whole blood, RCC and packed cells, respectively, which resulted from unclear pack labelling by blood transfusion services (BTS). Re-training of the BTS, hospital blood banks and clinical teams led to, in subsequent audits, significant differences in median haematocrit and haemoglobins across the three pack types and values within expected ranges. Median storage duration time was 12 days (IQR: 6, 19) with 18·2% (537/2964) over 21 days in storage. Initially, 9 (2·8%) packs were issued past the recommended duration of storage, dropping to 0·3% (N = 7) in the third audit post-training.
CONCLUSION: The study highlights the importance of close interactions and education between BTS and clinical services and the importance of haemovigilance to ensure safe transfusion practice.