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Better blood testing on offer for sickle cell patients

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More detailed testing has been made available for NHS patients with blood disorders, including sickle cell and thalassaemia, which will enable better matched and potentially safer transfusions.

NHS Blood and Transplant announced today that it was now offering to genotype blood groups for patients with haemoglobinopathies – including sickle cell disease and thalassaemia – that affect the body’s ability to make the oxygen carrying molecule haemoglobin.

“We would urge all patients with haemoglobin disorders… to speak to their medical or nursing team about providing a blood sample”

Sara Trompeter

The typing will also detect “Rh Variant” blood groups, which are slightly different to other blood groups and need to be considered when planning transfusions.

Previously, typing to this level would only be possible through reference laboratories using complex genotyping methods.

Unlike the older phenotyping methods, NHS Blood and Transplant’s new, extended, testing can also be provided for people who have recently received blood.

The work will enable the creation of a database of genotyped blood details for patients in England with these disorders, said the special health authority in a statement.

Dr Sara Trompeter, a consultant haematologist at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Patients taking part can now potentially receive more finely matched blood if we know not just their blood group, but whether they have a variant Rh type.

“There will also be greater safety and likelihood of getting matched blood in an emergency, as their records will be held centrally and can be accessed by blood banks in local hospitals,” she said.

NHS Blood and Transplant

Better blood testing on offer for sickle cell patients

Laura Johnson working in NHS Blood and Transplant’s International Blood Group Reference Laboratory in Filton

She added: “We would urge all patients with haemoglobin disorders such as, sickle cell disease or thalassaemia, to speak to their medical or nursing team about providing a blood sample to NHS Blood and Transplant via their local transfusion laboratories to be genotyped.”

Before the start of the new initiative, only a small number of patients had their blood tested for Rh variant status, said NHS Blood and Transplant.

The latest initiative would test for a wider array of blood groups, including the most common Rh variant genes.

NHS Blood and Transplant said it was offering the testing at no extra cost to hospitals as part of the initiative until end of June 2016.

More than 2,500 samples have been received so far from the estimated 15,000 people affected by haemoglobin disorders.

The results are stored at the International Blood Group Reference Laboratory near Filton. The results will be accessible to the teams involved in the future care of the patients tested.

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