Illustration Red blood cells

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To ensure that safe really is safe

Patients with a weakened immune system can only receive specially treated blood in transfusions. Innovative labels with a cover layer made from a PLEXIGLAS® film ensure that only suitable blood is used.

Blood transfusions can be indispensable in certain situations. However, extreme caution is required when treating patients with a weakened immune system, for example due to cancer. In certain cases, their bodies may have a strong reaction to certain parts of the donor blood. Medical professionals call this “graft versus host disease” (GvHD), an immune reaction which has fatal consequences in over 90 percent of all cases. To avoid this serious complication, blood reserves must be treated in a specific way for this group of at-risk people.

Indicators show irradiation

To treat the blood, hospitals or blood banks subject the blood bags to radioactive gamma rays or x-rays for a certain period of time. This irradiation eliminates the components in the blood which could cause GvHD. To ensure that the at-risk patients only receive irradiated blood, these reserves are equipped with special labels, for example the RAD-CONTROL irradiation indicators from the Austrian company On Point Medicals. “The part of our labels which display the irradiation only become visible after it has been irradiated,” explains Alexander Höfinger, Chief Executive Officer at On Point Medicals. “This makes it immediately clear that the blood bag really has been subjected to irradiation and that the label has not accidentally been applied to the wrong bag.” This means that the label is applied to the blood bag before irradiation and is then irradiated together with the bag, which is then clearly indicated by the label changing color.

Protective layer made from a PLEXIGLAS® film

The indicators which display the irradiation not only react to x-rays or radioactive rays, but are also sensitive to UV light. On Point Medicals therefore had to search for a suitable material for an outer layer which could protect the indicators beneath from UV rays, while simultaneously being thin enough for the labels to remain flexible, allowing them to be applied to the blood bags. After several tests using different materials, the company located in Klagenfurt, Austria, decided to use a PLEXIGLAS® film just 75 micrometers thick. “PLEXIGLAS® provides excellent UV protection, which enables our indicators to work in the first place,” explains Höfinger. Another characteristic which impressed the Austrians is that PLEXIGLAS® film is available in different colors. “The red dye used on our foil makes it easy to distinguish the color change between red and black,” says Höfinger. “This means the color shift is a reliable and self-explanatory indicator, eradicating any uncertainties during the assessment.”

Individual requirements

Blood banks and hospitals from 50 countries around the world already place their trust in products from the Rad-Control portfolio. “They all have similar tasks, but the exact requirements, structures and processes are different wherever you go,” explains Höfinger. “We therefore developed a system which allows the labels to be customized.” It is possible to purchase labels in different sizes, shapes and languages – even logos can be incorporated. While the standard version simply indicates radiation by changing color, the labels can also display this information as an electronically readable barcode, or even provide information on the strength of the irradiation. “Our irradiation indicators simplify the daily work of doctors, technical staff members and care staff, while simultaneously increasing safety in clinical practices,” says Höfinger.