High Ferritin Levels Associated With Higher Hemolysis, Potassium Levels

October 04, 2020

Donation frequency did not influence the quality of red blood cell components in a study of Australian whole blood donors, Joanne G C Tan, PhD, research fellow at Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, shared in Saturday’s Oral Abstract Session – Donor/Collection. However, RBC components from donors with high ferritin levels had higher hemolysis and potassium release during storage, despite a lower donation frequency from those donors.

In the study, investigators collected whole blood donations from 798 donors and held overnight (less than 18 hours) before top-and-bottom separation to produce a red cell component. They measured hemolysis and extracellular potassium on day 42 of storage. The donation frequency for each donor was determined as the number of whole blood donations in the preceding 24 months, with 0-1 donations classified as low frequency and 5-8 donations as high frequency.

RBC components from donors with high ferritin (greater than 200 micrograms per liter, n=44) had significantly higher hemolysis at day 42 compared to RBC components from donors with low ferritin (less than 30 micrograms per liter for males and less than 15 micrograms per liter for females; n=142), or RBC from donors with ferritin within the normal range (n=642).

RBC components from high-ferritin donors had significantly higher extracellular potassium than donors with low or normal ferritin levels. Donation frequency did not affect RBC component hemolysis or potassium release for either male or female donors. In addition, high-ferritin donors had a significantly higher BMI than donors with low ferritin, and donors with low ferritin had a significantly higher donation frequency than donors with high ferritin.

Tan noted that low ferritin levels can compromise donor health, but higher donor ferritin levels may compromise RBC component quality. In the future, the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood is interested in characterizing the high ferritin in whole blood donors and to determine if these results are ongoing. It also plans to look at donor genetic factors and optimizing the whole blood donor panel.