Sourcing fresh blood products

Australian Red Cross Lifeblood(Opens in a new tab/window) (Lifeblood) is a division of the Australian Red Cross Society (the Australian Red Cross). It is the sole provider of fresh blood products in Australia. Lifeblood collects by donation all blood used for medical purposes.

Donated fresh blood is separated into 3 parts for medical use:

  • red blood cells
  • platelets
  • plasma.

A simple process called centrifugation spins the blood to separate it into these parts. Red blood cells and platelets are also filtered to remove white blood cells.

White blood cells help fight infection, but they can cause adverse reactions in a blood product recipient, so they're removed from donated blood.

Our relationship with Lifeblood

Lifeblood collects donated whole blood and plasma. It supplies plasma to CSL Behring to create plasma-derived products. The NBA manages and coordinates the supply of blood, blood products and blood services.

A Deed of Agreement describes the blood supply and funding arrangements between the NBA and the Australian Red Cross.

We fund this process through our arrangement with the Australian, state and territory governments. A Funding and Services Agreement (FSA) sets out how Lifeblood is funded.

An Output Based Funding Model (OBFM) guides a 3-year funding cycle for Lifeblood and the pricing of blood products.

Lifeblood reports its performance against the Statement of Expectations (SoE) to the Health ministers.

Find out how we manage fresh blood product supply with Lifeblood.

How fresh blood products are used

Red blood cells

Red blood cells carry oxygen and remove waste products. Red blood cell transfusions can be used for people who:

  • have cancer and other blood diseases
  • are having surgery
  • have anaemia
  • are giving birth
  • have lost large amounts of blood due to trauma.

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Platelets help with blood clotting and tissue repair. Patients with a low platelet count or problems with platelet function need platelet transfusions. This includes people who:

  • have cancer and are receiving chemotherapy
  • have a bone marrow transplant
  • are taking medicines that interfere with platelet function
  • are bleeding.

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Plasma is the liquid part of blood. It is mostly made of water. Plasma carries blood cells and other substances around our bodies.

Lifeblood produces 3 types of plasma products – fresh frozen plasma, cryoprecipitate, and cryodepleted plasma.

Lifeblood also supplies plasma to CSL Behring(Opens in a new tab/window), which manufactures products from fractionated blood plasma.

Learn more about how we source plasma and plasma recombinant products.

Fresh frozen plasma (clinical plasma)

Fresh plasma can be frozen after collection for storage. It can be used to:

  • replace clotting factors in trauma patients who need a massive transfusion
  • quickly reverse the effects of blood-thinning medications
  • replace missing plasma proteins and other substances.

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Cryoprecipitate is the cold-insoluble proteins collected from fresh frozen plasma after thawing. It contains proteins involved in blood clotting, including:

  • fibrinogen
  • Factor VIII
  • Factor XIII
  • von Willebrand factor.

Cryoprecipitate is used when a patient has low levels of clotting proteins, especially fibrinogen, or their fibrinogen isn't working properly. It is often used during a massive transfusion when a patient needs many blood components at once. This can happen during trauma or massive bleeding.

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Cryodepleted plasma

Cryodepleted plasma is made from fresh frozen plasma after removing the cryoprecipitate. It is mostly used in plasma exchange for patients with thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura.

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Testing fresh blood for safety

Lifeblood tests donated blood to ensure it is safe to use. This includes mandatory tests for:

  • ABO blood group and RhD type
  • virus screening
  • red blood cell antibody screening
  • syphilis.

Platelets are also screened for bacterial contamination. Platelets are stored at room temperature, which means they have a greater risk of growing bacteria than other blood products.

Get in touch

If you have a query about fresh blood products in Australia, please contact us.

Last updated: 27 Mar 2024

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