Transfusion medicine

Quality and compliance

Shelf lives of products



Last author update: 9 April 2024
Last staff update: 9 April 2024

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PubMed Search: Shelf lives of blood products

Adenike Eketunde, M.D., M.P.H.
Reggie Thomasson, M.S., M.D.
Page views in 2024 to date: 46
Cite this page: Eketunde A, Thomasson R. Shelf lives of products. PathologyOutlines.com website. https://www.pathologyoutlines.com/topic/transfusionmedshelflives.html. Accessed April 14th, 2024.
Definition / general
  • Shelf life of a blood product refers to the period during which the product is expected to retain its intended characteristics, including appearance, functionality and safety
  • This duration is influenced by factors such as the specific type of blood product, its intended use and the conditions under which it is stored
Essential features
  • Red blood cell components are stored in plastic bags with anticoagulants and preservatives and are susceptible to storage related metabolic, morphologic and functional changes
  • Whole blood components are stored in plastic bags and share susceptibility to storage related alterations found in red cell components
  • Platelet components are stored in semipermeable plastic bags and have a shelf life defined by metabolic, morphologic and functional changes
  • Granulocyte components achieve optimal efficacy by transfusing promptly upon receipt from the blood center
  • Plasma derived component storage conditions and shelf life can affect coagulation factor activity levels
Terminology
  • Anticoagulant / preservative solutions: acid citrate dextrose (ACD), citrate phosphate dextrose (CPD), citrate phosphate double dextrose (CP2D), citrate phosphate dextrose adenine 1 (CPDA-1); these are crucial anticoagulant solutions for preserving blood samples, preventing clotting during storage or processing
  • Additive solutions: AS-1 (Adsol), AS-3 (Nutricel), AS-5 (Optisol) and AS-7 (SOLX); these contain adenine with or without mannitol to further extend the shelf life of blood products beyond anticoagulant / preservative solutions
  • Whole blood derived (WBD)
  • Large volume, delayed sampling (LVDS): a strategic product sampling approach used to mitigate the risk of bacterial contamination
Blood product storage conditions and shelf life

Red blood cell components (whole blood derived or apheresis derived) (FDA: CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 [Accessed 22 February 2024])
  • Stored in plastic bags that contain anticoagulants, preservatives, with or without additive solutions
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires in vivo labeling studies demonstrate that ≥ 75% of the transfused red cells remain in circulation after 24 hours with < 1% hemolysis
  • Storage lesions are an accumulation of biochemical and morphological changes that occur during blood product storage
    • Morphological changes
      • Alterations in red cell membrane shape and deformability
      • Membrane vesiculation
    • Biochemical changes
      • Decreased pH, adenosine triphosphate and 2,3 diphosphoglycerate
      • Increased lysophospholipids, potassium and free hemoglobin

Blood product Storage conditions Transport conditions Shelf life / expiration
Red blood cells (RBCs) 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C ACD / CPD / CP2D: 21 days
CPDA-1: 35 days
Additive solution: 42 days
Open system: 24 hours
Deglycerolized RBCs 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C Open system: 24 hours
Closed system: 14 days or as FDA approved
Frozen RBCs 40% glycerol -65 °C or colder if
40% glycerol or
as FDA approved
Maintain frozen state 10 years (a policy shall be developed if rare frozen units are to be retained beyond this time)
Freeze within 6 days of collection unless rejuvenated
Freeze before expiration if rare unit
RBCs irradiated 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C Original expiration or 28 days from date of irradiation, whichever is sooner
RBCs leukocytes reduced 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C ACD / CPD / CP2D: 21 days
CPDA-1: 35 days
Additive solution: 42 days
Open system: 24 hours
Rejuvenated RBCs 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C CPD, CPDA-1: 24 hours
AS-1: freeze after rejuvenation
Deglycerolized rejuvenated RBCs 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C 24 hours or as approved by FDA
Frozen rejuvenated RBCs -65 °C or colder Maintain frozen state CPD, CPDA-1: 10 years
AS-1: 3 years (a policy shall be developed if rare frozen units are to be retained beyond this time)
Washed RBCs 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C 24 hours


Whole blood components
  • Used in situations requiring a combination of components, such as during massive blood loss or for certain surgical procedures
  • Contain red cells, plasma and platelets
  • Stored in plastic collection bags
  • Subject to same storage lesions found in red cell components

Blood product Storage conditions Transport conditions Shelf life / expiration
Whole blood 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C CPD / CP2D: 21 days
CPDA-1: 35 days
Whole blood irradiated 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C Original expiration or 28 days from date of irradiation (whichever is sooner)
Whole blood leukocytes reduced 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C CPD / CP2D: 21 days
CPDA-1: 35 days
Open system: 24 hours


Granulocyte components
  • Transfuse as soon as possible after receipt from blood center
  • Always irradiate
  • Should not be agitated

Granulocyte components Storage conditions Transport conditions Shelf life / expiration
Apheresis granulocytes 20 - 24 °C As close as possible to 20 - 24 °C 24 hours
Apheresis granulocytes irradiated 20 - 24 °C As close as possible to 20 - 24 °C No change from original expiration date


Plasma components
  • Coagulation factor activity is affected by storage conditions and shelf life
  • Plasma derivatives include products like immunoglobulins and albumin, used for immune deficiency treatment, volume expansion and various therapeutic purposes
  • Cryoprecipitate antihemophilic factor (cryo)
    • Cryo is rich in clotting factors and is used to treat bleeding disorders, particularly hemophilia and fibrinogen deficiencies

Plasma components Storage conditions Transport conditions Shelf life / expiration
Cryoprecipitated antihemophilic factor (AHF) -18 °C or colder Maintain frozen state 12 months from original collection
Cryoprecipitated AHF (after thawing) 20 - 24 °C As close as possible to 20 - 24 °C Single unit: 6 hours
Pooled cryoprecipitated AHF (pooled before freezing) -18 °C or colder Maintain frozen state 12 months from earliest date of collection of products in pool
Pooled cryoprecipitated AHF (after thawing) 20 - 24 °C As close as possible to 20 - 24 °C Pooled in an open system: 4 hours
Pooled using a sterile connection device: 6 hours
Pathogen reduced cryoprecipitated fibrinogen complex -18 °C or colder Maintain frozen state -18 °C or colder: 12 months from collection
Post-thaw, 20 - 24 °C: 5 days
Fresh frozen plasma (FFP) -18 °C or colder or -65 °C or colder Maintain frozen state -18 °C or colder: 12 months from collection
-65 °C or colder: 7 years from collection (FDA approval required if product is stored for longer than 12 months)
FFP (after thawing) 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C If issued as FFP: 24 hours
Plasma frozen within 24 hours after phlebotomy (PF24) -18 °C or colder Maintain frozen state 12 months from collection
Plasma frozen within 24 hours after phlebotomy (after thawing) 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C If issued as PF24: 24 hours
Plasma frozen within 24 hours after phlebotomy held at room temperature up to 24 hours after phlebotomy (PF24RT24) -18 °C or colder Maintain frozen state 12 months from collection
Plasma frozen within 24 hours after phlebotomy held at room temperature up to 24 hours after phlebotomy (after thawing) 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C If issued as PF24RT24: 24 hours
Thawed plasma 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C 5 days from date product was thawed or original expiration, whichever is sooner
Plasma cryoprecipitate reduced -18 °C or colder Maintain frozen state 12 months from collection
Plasma cryoprecipitate reduced (after thawing) 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C If issued as plasma cryoprecipitate reduced: 24 hours
Thawed plasma cryoprecipitate reduced 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C If issued as thawed plasma cryoprecipitate reduced: 5 days from date product was thawed or original expiration, whichever is sooner
Liquid plasma 1 - 6 °C 1 - 10 °C 5 days after expiration of whole blood
Recovered plasma (liquid or frozen) Refer to short supply agreement Refer to short supply agreement Refer to short supply agreement (required)
Plasma pathogen reduced -18 °C or colder Maintain frozen state 12 months from original collection


Platelet components
Platelet components Storage conditions Transport conditions Shelf life / expiration
Platelets 20 - 24 °C with continuous gentle agitation As close as possible to 20 - 24 °C
Maximum time without agitation: 30 hours
24 hours to 5 days, depending on collection system
Platelets cold stored 1 - 6 °C (agitation optional) 1 - 10 °C 14 days
Platelets irradiated 20 - 24 °C with continuous gentle agitation As close as possible to 20 - 24 °C
Maximum time without agitation: 30 hours
No change from original expiration date
Platelets leukocytes reduced 20 - 24 °C with continuous gentle agitation As close as possible to 20 - 24 °C
Maximum time without agitation: 30 hours
Open system: 4 hours
Closed system: no change in expiration
Pooled platelets leukocytes reduced 20 - 24 °C with continuous gentle agitation As close as possible to 20 - 24 °C
Maximum time without agitation: 30 hours
4 hours after pooling or 5 days following collection of the oldest unit in the pool
Pooled platelets (in open system) 20 - 24 °C with continuous gentle agitation As close as possible to 20 - 24 °C
Maximum time without agitation: 30 hours
Open system: 4 hours
Apheresis platelets 20 - 24 °C with continuous gentle agitation As close as possible to 20 - 24 °C
Maximum time without agitation: 30 hours
24 hours or 5 days, depending on collection system
Apheresis platelets irradiated 20 - 24 °C with continuous gentle agitation As close as possible to 20 - 24 °C
Maximum time without agitation: 30 hours
No change from original expiration date
Apheresis platelets leukocytes reduced 20 - 24 °C with continuous gentle agitation As close as possible to 20 - 24 °C
Maximum time without agitation: 30 hours
Open system: within 4 hours of opening the system
Closed system 5 days or 7 days
Apheresis platelets platelet additive solution added leukocytes reduced 20 - 24 °C with continuous gentle agitation As close as possible to 20 - 24 °C
Maximum time without agitation: 30 hours
5 days
Apheresis platelets pathogen reduced 20 - 24 °C with continuous gentle agitation As close as possible to 20 - 24 °C
Maximum time without agitation: 30 hours
5 days
Case reports
  • 25 year old man presented to his primary care physician with 3 weeks of fatigue and intermittent low grade fevers (Acad Pathol 2020;7:2374289520909500)
  • 63 year old man with chronic kidney and liver disease who received a pathogen reduced platelet transfusion (Transfusion 2021;61:641)
  • 82 year old Caucasian man underwent weekly platelet and blood transfusion due to sustained severe thrombocytopenia (New Microbiol 2023;46:219)
Sample assessment & plan
  • Assessment:
    • A 65 year old man presented to a local hospital with shortness of breath and fatigue. According to his wife, he had been feeling more tired than usual over the last couple of weeks, particularly the past 3 days. During this time, he also noted occasional blood streaked stools.
    • CBC revealed a Hgb of 5.9 g/dL. Sigmoidoscopy revealed 2 bleeding rectal polyps, which were removed.
    • He is well known to the transfusion service, where they determined the presence of an anti-Jk3 as part of serological workup on a past admission when blood transfusion was also required. At the request of the treating physician, 2 cryopreserved (frozen 3 years ago) Jk3 antigen negative units in inventory were thawed and deglycerolized for transfusion. After the first unit was transfused, the clinical team decided to hold off on additional transfusion since the patient's symptoms appeared to resolve.
  • Plan:
    • The patient's response to treatment, including initial transfusion, does not warrant additional blood transfusion at this time.
    • Due to the extreme scarcity of Jk3 antigen negative RBCs, the blood bank medical director will have the laboratory technologist refreeze the second Jk3 antigen negative RBC unit, as per local hospital transfusion policy.
Board review style question #1
Which of the following statements is true regarding the shelf life and storage conditions of red blood cells (RBCs)?

  1. RBCs have a shelf life of 21 days when stored in citrate phosphate dextrose (CPD) at 1 - 6 °C
  2. RBCs have a shelf life of 35 days when stored in citrate phosphate double dextrose (CP2D) at 1 - 6 °C
  3. RBCs have a shelf life of 35 days when stored in citrate phosphate dextrose adenine 1 (CPDA-1) at 1 - 10 °C
  4. RBCs have a shelf life of 42 days when stored in CPD and additive solution at 1 - 10 °C
Board review style answer #1
A. RBCs have a shelf life of 21 days when stored in CPD at 1 - 6 °C. Answer C is incorrect because RBCs must be stored between 1 and 6 °C. Answer B is incorrect because storing RBCs collecting in CP2D has a shelf life of 21 days. Answer D is incorrect because storing RBCs at 1 - 10 °C is not a recommended storage temperature.

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Reference: Shelf lives of products
Board review style question #2
Which blood product has the shortest shelf life?

  1. Apheresis platelets stored at room temperature
  2. Cryoprecipitate stored at -18 °C
  3. Fresh frozen plasma (FFP) stored at -18 °C
  4. Red blood cells (RBCs) stored at 1 - 6 °C
Board review style answer #2
A. Apheresis platelets stored at room temperature. Among the options listed, platelets have the shortest shelf life. They are most often stored at room temperature and have a shelf life of only 5 days. This shelf life can be extended to 7 days in certain circumstances outlined by the FDA bacterial contamination mitigation strategies. Cold stored platelets can have a longer time to expiration based on manufacturer's instruction. Answers B, C and D are incorrect because these blood products have longer shelf lives compared to platelets. FFP is stored at -18 °C or colder and can be stored for up to 1 year. Cryoprecipitate is derived from FFP and has a shelf life of 1 year when stored at -18 °C or colder. RBCs in liquid form have a shelf life ranging from 21 to 42 days depending on the anticoagulant, preservative and additive solution used.

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Reference: Shelf lives of products
Board review style question #3
What is the maximum allowable storage time for cryoprecipitate when stored at -18 °C or colder?

  1. 1 year
  2. 2 years
  3. 6 months
  4. 18 months
Board review style answer #3
A. 1 year. Cryoprecipitate, when stored at -18 °C or colder, has a maximum allowable storage time of 1 year. This ensures the preservation of its clotting factor content. Answers B, C and D are incorrect because they either do not meet or exceed the recommended storage time for cryoprecipitate.

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Reference: Shelf lives of products
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