When the recipient’s ABO and Rh blood groups are determined, the donor blood unit that is ABO and Rh compatible is selected, and compatibility test is carried out. The purpose of compatibility test is to prevent the transfusion of incompatible red cell units and thus avoidance of hemolytic transfusion reaction in the recipient. Compatibility test detects (i) major ABO grouping error, and (ii) most clinically significant antibodies reactive against donor red cells.
There are two types of cross-match: major cross-match (testing recipient’s serum against donor’s red cells) and minor cross-match (testing donor’s serum against recipient’s red cells). However, minor cross-match is considered as less important since antibodies in donor blood unit get diluted or neutralized in recipient’s plasma. Also, if antibody screening and identification is being carried out, minor cross-matching is not essential. Therefore, only the red cells from the donor unit are tested against the recipient’s serum and the name compatibility test has replaced the term cross-matching. For transfusion of platelets or fresh frozen plasma, cross-matching is not required. However, fresh frozen plasma should be ABO-compatible.
A full cross-matching procedure consists of:
- Immediate spin cross-match at room temperature, and
- Indirect antiglobulin test at 37°C.
IMMEDIATE SPIN CROSS MATCH
The purpose of this test is to detect ABO incompatibility. Equal volumes of 2% saline suspension of red cells of donor and recipient’s serum are mixed, incubated at room temperature for 5 minutes, and centrifuged. Agglutination or hemolysis indicates incompatibility.
Causes of False-negative Test
- A2B donor red cells and group B recipient serum.
- Rapid complement fixation of potent ABO antibodies with bound complement interfering with agglutination.
Causes of False-positive Test
- Rouleaux formation
- Cold-reactive antibodies: If agglutination disappears by keeping the tube at 37°C for 10 minutes, presence of cold agglutinins is confirmed.
INDIRECT ANTIGLOBULIN TEST
Saline-suspended red cells of the donor after being incubated in patient’s serum are washed in saline and antiglobulin reagent is added. Following re-centrifugation, examine for agglutination or hemolysis. This test detects most of the clinically significant IgG antibodies.
If agglutination or hemolysis is not observed in any of the above stages, donor unit is compatible with recipient’s serum. Agglutination or hemolysis at any stage is indicative of incompatibility.
If blood is required urgently, ABO and Rh grouping are carried out by rapid slide test and immediate spin cross match (i.e. the first stage of cross match) is performed (to exclude ABO incompatibility). If the blood unit is compatible, then after issuing it, remaining stage of the cross-match is completed. If any incompatibility is detected, the concerned physician is immediately informed about the incompatibility detected.
ANTIBODY SCREENING AND IDENTIFICATION
Screening for unexpected or irregular antibodies is done during pre-transfusion testing in recipient’s serum and in donor’s blood. In this test, serum of the recipient is tested against a set of three group O screening cells of known antigenic type. If unexpected antibodies are detected, then they are identified and blood unit that lacks the corresponding antigen is selected for compatibility test.