JPAC Joint United Kingdom (UK) Blood Transfusion and Tissue Transplantation Services Professional Advisory Committee

20.7: Deceased donor samples

Appropriate mechanisms must be in place to ensure:

  • The secure identification of samples obtained from hospital laboratories. Where there is doubt about the identity of a blood sample from a tissue donor (inadequate labelling), DNA profiling may be accepted as an accurate method for confirming the identity of the blood sample.
  • Documentation of the date and time the sample was taken, the name of the individual and laboratory supplying the sample and sample storage conditions.

An ante-mortem blood sample, up to 7 days preceding death, is always preferable to a post-mortem sample for testing. Where no ante-mortem sample is available, then a post-mortem sample can be used. Samples for testing must not be taken more than 24 hours post-mortem and the time from sampling to testing or freezing of the sample should be minimised and must be consistent with the test kit manufacturer’s recommendations or validated for the purpose.

The anatomical site from which the post-mortem sample was obtained must be documented. The sample appearance should be documented. If the sample appears dilute or grossly haemolysed, a repeat sample, preferably from an alternative site, should be obtained if possible. Tissue banks should have a protocol for post-mortem sampling, clearly defining preferred sites for sampling (e.g. cardiac puncture or femoral vessel puncture and avoiding sites close to intravenous lines).

Where a deceased donor with significant blood loss has received ante-mortem transfusions, a pre-transfusion sample should be used whenever possible for testing. If a pre-transfusion sample is not available, tissue banks must employ an algorithm incorporating the timing, nature and volume of the fluids infused and the donor’s own blood volume to assess any resultant plasma dilution (see the JPAC Donor Selection Guidelines1 for an example of a deceased donor intravenous fluid report form). Samples of blood estimated to be more than 50% dilute are not suitable for testing.

For post-mortem samples, concluded test results other than negative will debar tissues from release unless a superior sample can be obtained (e.g. obtained ante-mortem or closer to the time of death), and this sample is tested and negative results are obtained. The acquisition of the ‘superior’ sample must be subject to the same requirements given above.

In the case of deceased neonatal or infant tissue donors the following blood samples are required:

  • A maternal sample is required when an infant is less than 18 months of age or when an older child has been breast fed within the 12-month period prior to donation.
  • For still births and neonates less than 48 hours after birth, no sample is required.
  • For neonates between 48 hours and 28 days after birth, a sample is only required if there are identifiable risks of possible viral transmission, e.g. receiving blood components/products or undergoing a surgical procedure.
  • For infants more than 28 days after birth, a sample is always required.