the challenges of whole blood sample storage: there is a better way
Storing and shipping whole blood samples poses significant challenges and costs.
Once collected, whole blood must be used immediately or stored and maintained under strict temperature and environmental conditions for analysis or other applications. Characteristics of blood samples begin to change within hours of collection if these are not refrigerated or frozen.
Maintaining the stability of whole blood samples is an essential objective. Since blood components begin to degrade immediately, extended exposure to ambient temperatures dramatically affects the outcome of any analysis. Therefore, medical organizations around the world have created guidelines for the proper storage, packaging, and shipping of whole blood samples.
For example, the FDA recommends that whole blood samples held in specialized containers should only be kept in a refrigerated state for 42 days. However, it is recognized that some changes in the samples may occur during that time.
Another governing body, The National Institute of Health and Welfare in Finland, determined that whole blood samples, refrigerated at 4°C (or about 39°F), should only be held for up to seven days before discarding.
Shipping Whole Blood Samples
When samples must be shipped to another location by air or ground, packaging, labeling, and handling instructions are highly stringent. Since whole blood samples are considered bio-hazardous materials, samples must be packed with several layers of protection and kept cold with dry ice or other refrigeration methods. Containers must be clearly marked for special handling.
International shipments require far more documentation and must comply with local regulations, which may differ from country to country.
An Alternative: Dried Blood Samples
An efficient and far less complicated solution is dried blood sampling. With this method, blood samples can be drawn, often with just a finger prick, and dried. The blood samples retain their integrity through the entire process of shipping and storing until it may be analyzed.
Dried blood microsampling brings efficiency and reduces time, handling, and cost to blood sample collection and handling. Here are some advantages of using DBS blood sampling over whole blood sampling procedures:
- Eliminates substantial cold chain costs
- Far less documentation required to ship
- Less stressful
- Does not require patient to travel to medical facility
- Ideal for blood sampling in remote locations
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