By Laurie J Sutor, MD, MBA
Vice President of Medical and Technical Services
In early 2013, several patients in the Carter BloodCare service area required transfusions of granulocytes, a type of white blood cell that is needed to fight infection. Most of these patients had cancer or were recent bone marrow transplant patients, and were not able to make their own granulocytes. Such patients often need granulocyte transfusions daily for five to 10 days days or more, receiving them fresh on the day they are collected because these cells cannot be stored. The granulocytes must be matched to the patient for ABO and Rh type, and often CMV (cytomegalovirus) exposure history.
Special donors are needed to provide granulocyte products. The apheresis (automated collection) procedure takes about three hours and requires a pre-screening visit. Donors must have a health history and infectious disease testing done a few days in advance of donation, since the product will be released fresh to the hospital after collection and labeling. Granulocyte donors are also required to take three doses of prednisone, a medical steroid, prior to donation to raise their circulating white blood cell count. They must also answer additional questions about their health to make sure they have no risks to take steroids (such as diabetes or a positive TB test). Donors are deferred for 21 days from other blood donations because of the red cell loss that accompanies granulocyte donation.
Granulocytes are truly a life-saving blood product. The extra effort on the part of these donors is extraordinary. Schedule your appointment online or give us a call at 1-800-DONATE-4.