In Cold Blood

Study finds refrigerated whole blood lasts far longer than thought

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A new discovery may improve survival for war and injury victims. Whole blood, when refrigerated, may have a shelf life lasting beyond the standard 24 to 48 hours, according to new research.

David Jobes, M.D., a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist in the Cardiac Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said whole blood retains clotting properties at least 11 days with standard refrigeration, according to animal models.

The study's findings "may lead to a change in clinical practice," Jobes said.

Most patients in need of blood only need specific components -- namely platelets, red blood cells and plasma -- but in certain cases, such as infant heart surgery and combat injuries, whole blood may be preferable. After 48 hours of refrigeration, plasma and platelets must generally be discarded, meaning postponed surgeries waste valuable resources.
Jobes and colleagues measured the duration of blood coagulation properties in refrigerated whole blood, using 21 units of whole blood from healthy volunteer donors. They found that thromboelastography (TEG) and platelet aggregation levels, which measure blood-coagulation abilities, remain vital for at least 11 days under standard refrigerated conditions.

This extended shelf life may one day curb costs associated with postponed surgeries and allow for less waste of life-saving whole blood.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 23, 2011
Last Updated:
February 24, 2011