Highly Efficient Blood Collection Device Makes U.S. Debut at Stanford Blood Center

Attention News Desk: Press Release (for immediate release)
Michele Hyndman (650) 723-8237
Michelle Bussenius (650) 723-8270 or (650) 504-7973
M.A. Malone (650) 723-6912

STANFORD, Calif. – Mark Hayes walked into the Stanford Blood Center on March 12 and emerged 25 minutes later a pioneer of sorts. Hayes, a newly minted Stanford PhD, was the first official blood donor in the nation to have his precious fluid collected using a new automated device that allows donors to give their red cells, plus up to 2 1/2 times the usual amount of plasma, all in one sitting. “It feels good,” said Hayes, 30, unfazed by his new status. “I’m happy to contribute to progress and science.”

The blood center’s new process, still in the implementation phase, automatically extracts red cells and plasma and returns the unneeded components back to the donor. The system also pumps saline back into the donor so he or she emerges in relative comfort, without any lost fluids. The result is a more efficient collection system, said Dorothy Nguyen, MD, assistant medical director of the blood center and assistant clinical professor of pathology at the Stanford School of Medicine.

“I think the advantage of the new process is that we can still collect red cells, which are always needed for surgeries and trauma patients. But at the same time, we can collect more plasma, so the donor can do it all in one sitting,” Nguyen said. “It also collects what is needed and returns what is not used. It’s able to do it in a machine that’s very small and can go out on mobiles. So donors can feel good – they’ve contributed these two valuable products.”

The new system, combined with previous technologies, will enable the blood center to tailor its collections to its daily needs, based on demand for particular blood types and blood components.

“We want to be able to collect the right products from the right donor at the right time,” Nguyen said.

The process is part of the trend toward automation in the blood banking industry. Three years ago, the Stanford Blood Center acquired a new device, called the Alyx machine, which could automatically extract two unit-equivalents of red blood cells from donors, without collecting plasma. This helped boost supplies of these needed cells and made it convenient for donors, who did not need to visit the center as often to donate. Now Fenwal Blood Technologies (formerly owned by Baxter Laboratories), the maker of the Alyx device, has taken the technology one step further with a new process that enables donors to give more plasma, while donating a unit of red cells as well. Patients will be able to give up to 650 milliliters of plasma, depending on their weight and size; with manual blood draws, donors can give only 250 milliliters.

“Plasma is the mostly liquid component of blood that contains vitally needed clotting factors. These can be extracted for use in patients with rare factor deficiencies, as well as some patients with liver disease and some trauma patients,” Nguyen said. The need for additional plasma supplies has been boosted by a recent discovery that certain antibodies contained in plasma are a prime contributor to a condition known as transfusion-related acute lung injury, or TRALI. These antibodies may be carried in the plasma of women who have been pregnant, as well as previously transfused patients.

The American Association of Blood Banks has recommended that blood centers find a way to reduce the incidence of TRALI, which is the most reported cause of transfusion-related mortality in the country. Because it is anticipated that fewer donors will be able to provide plasma in the future, the Stanford Blood Center is looking at ways of boosting its supplies – and the new system should meet that need, Nguyen said.

In addition to providing more plasma, the new automated collection process filters out leukocytes, the white blood cells that can cause fevers in recipient patients. That eliminates the extra step of having a technician in the lab filter out these cells. Blood center officials say the automated collecting system has been well received. Donors report feeling good after the process, as they don’t feel weakened by loss of fluid, said Mars Mallari, the automated collections manager at the blood center. Hayes said he experienced a cooling sensation as the saline was being delivered back into his system. The entire 25-minute donation process, he said, was “comfortable and easy. I would recommend it.”

Blood center spokesperson Michele Hyndman said the automated device is particularly popular with Silicon Valley people who love new gadgets, as well as students who donate during mobile drives.

“The high school kids love Alyx. They line up for it. They think it’s cool,” she said. The Stanford Blood Center will be validating the new red cell/plasma combination collection process over the next several months, with the expectation that it will become widely used in the blood banking industry.

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Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions – Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. For more information, please visit the Web site of the medical center’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs at http://mednews.stanford.edu.