High Number of Requests for Rare Blood Reinforce Importance of Rare Blood Inventories

October 19, 2021

Annually, there are more than 10,000 requests for rare blood in the United States, according to recent data collected by the American Rare Donor Program. The data was included in an abstract titled “Survey of the American Rare Donor Program: New Insights into Enumerating Rare Donors and Rare Blood Requests in the USA” that was presented as part of the oral abstract session on immunohematology and rare donors on Tuesday morning at the 2021 AABB Annual Meeting.

The findings from the American Rare Donor Program were presented by Margaret Keller, PhD, executive of national laboratories at the American Red Cross. Keller said the mission of the American Rare Donor Program is to “register, educate and engage rare donors and to facilitate identifying blood products of rare phenotypes to meet specific patient needs.”

According to Keller, the intention of this survey was to determine the number, fraction and types of rare blood requests filled by member facilities of the American Rare Donor Program with units from their own inventories. The researchers also sought to determine the number of donors registered with member centers by phenotype and to evaluate the impact of these findings on the future of rare blood needs in the United States.

The survey’s results showed that of the more than 10,000 requests for rare blood received annually, approximately 8,400 are filled by member centers of the American Rare Donor Program and approximately 1,500 are filled by other centers. “This new knowledge of the number of rare requests in the United States filled by the local center is valuable and confirms the importance of rare blood inventories,” Keller said. 

“The survey provided a snapshot of rare blood requests in American Rare Donor Program centers, demonstrating a need dramatically larger than previously known,” Keller said. “This suggests increased rare donor screening is critical to addressing this need in the future.”

However, as Keller also noted, the reality is that the number of requests for rare blood is likely even higher, since some requests do not get reported and data from about 25% of collecting centers was not captured in this survey. “The magnitude is likely eve larger than what we’ve shown here,” she said. “It’s fascinating and a bit mind-boggling.”