WCBS Gets Full Ownership for the Provision of Irradiated Blood Products in the Western Cape

WCBS has acquired two new Mk2 X-ray type irradiators, which will operate from the Groote Schuur and Tygerberg Blood Banks. The new blood irradiators will replace the three caesium-137 blood irradiators that were in use at Red Cross Blood Bank, Groote Schuur Hospital and Netcare UCT Private Academic Hospital. The X-ray irradiator delivers greater throughput and efficiency – it can process up to three different blood products packs within five minutes, whereas the caesium-137 machine could only irradiate one pack at a time.

The purpose of irradiating blood products is to target and remove donor lymphocytes that can be responsible for transfusion-associated graft versus host disease (TA-GvHD). Blood products for severely immunocompromised patients require irradiation, such as those with congenital immunodeficiency states, patients undergoing stem cell transplants or those receiving specific types of treatment such as antithymocyte globulin (ATG) or purine analogues. The irradiation of the blood product involves the convergence of two opposing X-ray tubes (160 kV max.; 60 – 80 kV average) at the centrally located sample canister, and delivery of 25 Gy to the sample canister in approximately four minutes. Safety aspects include shielding to limit the radiation exposure at the exterior surface to approximately 0.03 mR/hr, and two separate door safety interlocks that prevent accidental exposure to the x-ray beam during use.

Requests for irradiated blood products received at any of our other six blood banks will first be grouped and screened. If no irregular red cell antibodies are present, the request will be sent to the Tygerberg or Groote Schuur Blood Banks, who will select and irradiate group-specific blood for the patient. In the event that irregular red cell antibodies are present, the receiving blood bank and/or Immunohaematology Laboratory will first find suitably-matched blood for the patient, then send it to either Tygerberg or Groote Schuur Blood Banks for irradiation.

The price for the irradiation of blood products will remain unchanged – R 621.76 for the private sector and R 465.44 for the state sector (2021 price).

We are hoping that the introduction of the new X-ray irradiators at WCBS will improve the delivery of irradiated blood products for patients across the Western Cape.

Further reading:

  1. Switching from a cesium-137 blood irradiator to an X-ray irradiator. Experience at a Community-based Hospital in the Northeastern U.S. M. Hernandez Morristown Medical Center – Atlantic Health System Morristown, New Jersey, U.S.A.

For more information, please feel free to contact your nearest blood bank.


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