A Guide to Plasma Thawing & Storage
Plasma donations have contributed to many life-saving treatments worldwide. Their proteins can be extracted and used for various medications and therapies, particularly for people with rare blood conditions and injuries. When a person donates their plasma, the sample can be combined with a large amount of donations from other people into plasma pools for further processing into plasma derivatives.
Health care facilities around the world use blood donations, collections and transfusions to save and improve lives. However, plasma and other blood components must be tested and stored in blood banks before they can be safely used for medical procedures. This makes blood storage and thawing equipment — such as freezers, refrigerators and plasma thawers — a necessity.
These critical devices help maintain cold storage temperatures, protect blood components and prevent degradation, preparing blood for transport and use. Continue reading to learn more about proper plasma storage and thawing protocols.
What Is Plasma?
Plasma is a light yellow liquid that carries vital components to parts of the body that need it. It is the largest part of the blood, comprising 55% of its total volume. Red blood cells make up 44% of blood volume, followed by white blood cells and platelets at 1%. Plasma contains water, proteins, electrolytes and immunoglobulins.
For people that have chronic bleeding disorders or lose large blood quantities from an accident or surgery, plasma donations can help replenish the lost blood and plasma. The plasma's antibodies and proteins are often used in therapies for rare chronic conditions, like hemophilia and autoimmune disorders.
Plasma plays multiple key roles in bodily function, including:
- Clotting blood
- Delivering nutrients, hormones and proteins to the body
- Absorbing and releasing heat to regulate body temperature
- Helping exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide
- Maintaining blood circulation and pressure
- Preventing blood vessels from clogging or collapsing
- Redistributing water where the body needs it
- Removing cell waste, then transporting it to the lungs, kidneys and liver for excretion
- Preventing bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic infections
How to Store Plasma
It is vital to store plasma and other blood components at the correct temperature as soon as they are extracted from the donor's body. This helps preserve essential proteins, nutrients and molecules for clinical, testing or research purposes. Proper frozen plasma storage is important to ensure safe, efficient treatment for injured patients and people with blood clotting disorders.
First, a technician extracts the liquid plasma portion of the donor blood using one of these methods:
- Plasmapheresis: During plasmapheresis, a technician connects the donor to a plasmapheresis machine that collects blood outside the donor's body and separates the components by centrifugation. The technician then transfuses the saline-diluted cellular components back into the donor's bloodstream in one continuous loop. The plasma can then be further stored, processed and used to treat numerous medical conditions including burns, clotting disorders and autoimmune disorders.
- Whole blood centrifugation and plasma expressing: After whole blood collection by a phlebotomist, a technician will further process the blood bag into its components. The blood bag is placed in a special refrigerated centrifuge and spun to separate the cellular components. The more dense cellular components settle to the bottom of the bag. Once a clear separation is achieved, the technologist can use a plasma expressor to express the liquid plasma into a separate bag.
Blood collection requires various tools, such as needles, tubes and blood bags. A blood collection mixer is another essential piece of equipment when collecting whole blood. It provides valuable information like current and target blood volume, collection start time, elapsed time and fullness percentage.
After collecting the plasma, the technician must freeze it within 24 hours of donation to preserve its clotting properties. To preserve some of the most heat-labile clotting factors and classify the product as Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP), the technician must freeze the liquid plasma within 8 hours of donation.
Freezing the sample at low temperatures is necessary to ensure its quality and efficacy. Typically, source plasma will last a year when stored at temperatures no warmer than -20 degrees Celsius.
The Best Equipment for Blood Plasma Storage
Here is some essential equipment for plasma storage to maintain stringent temperatures, quality and function:
- Blood bank refrigerators: As mentioned above, plasma and other blood components must be stored at specific temperatures to preserve their integrity. A blood bank refrigerator helps maintain a uniform temperature throughout the unit, keeping all blood components at similar temperatures while preventing freezing. Standard blood bank refrigerators generally reach 2 to 6 degrees Celsius, so it's more suitable for short-term blood storage.
- ULT freezers: A ULT freezer can reach -86 degrees Celsius, making it ideal for long-term storage. It can store red blood cells, tissues, plasma and other laboratory samples. ULT freezers are designed with state-of-the-art technology and optimal energy savings in mind, reducing waste, heat and noise.
- Contact shock freezers: A quicker, shorter cooling time means better plasma quality. A contact shock freezer provides fast, uniform blood component freezing. It can help blood transfusion centers and blood banks freeze plasma fast in compliance with medical standards, such as the 60-minute range specified by the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines & Healthcare (EDQM).
- Blood transport systems: Eventually, blood will need to be transported to another blood bank, laboratory or health care facility. To preserve its efficacy, the blood must be transported in a special medical box that maintains cold storage temperatures. These medical boxes ensure a secure, temperature-controlled environment, even for demanding transport applications and climatic conditions.
How To Thaw Plasma Bags & Samples
Preheat a water bath to 36 degrees Celsius, then place the frozen plasma sample directly into the water. Agitate the sample gently every five to 10 minutes to ensure uniform thawing. The ideal thawing time will depend on the plasma sample volume. A 10-ml sample might thaw completely in a few minutes, while a larger volume bag may take up to an hour.
Once thawed, the plasma should be used immediately or refrigerated at 4 degrees Celsius for up to five days. Do not store liquid or thawed plasma directly on ice or below zero degrees Celsius, as this can lead to clotting.
You should also inspect the plasma bag for signs of precipitation, contamination or clotting before using it for testing, research or medical applications.
The Best Equipment for Thawing Plasma
Plasma thawing is often a delicate, tedious process. High-quality plasma thawing equipment — such as plasma thawers, overwrap bags and water bath cleaners — is essential. It can help control thawing temperatures and provide agitation, ensuring an easier and more accurate thawing process.
A plasma thawer also includes safety features to prevent contamination during thawing. Its alarms signal when the cycle is complete, allowing you to focus on other tasks during the thawing process.
Find Plasma Storage and Thawing Equipment at Boekel Scientific
At Boekel Scientific, we have the equipment you need to ensure safe, accurate and efficient plasma thawing and storage. We are an ISO 13485:2016-certified company that designs, manufactures and supplies a variety of blood banking equipment.
Since 1868, our innovative solutions have aimed to preserve valuable blood components, improve laboratory operations and make blood banking safer. Our extensive selection includes refrigerators, freezers, mixers, blood transport systems, tubes and more. Browse our inventory of blood banking equipment or contact us about finding the right products!