Irradiation of Blood Components


The use of irradiated components is to inactivate antigen-processing cells, which have been implicated in transfusion-associated graft versus host disease (TAGVHD).  This condition is may be fatal and has been reported in a variety of clinical settings, both in immunocompromised and immunocompetent hosts.

Since we pathogen-inactivate platelet components, we are only irradiating RBC components.  There is no need to irradiate any plasma components (e.g. FP24, thawed plasma, cryoprecipitate, or cryo-poor plasma.)

WARNING:  Do not irradiate stem cell units!!


  1. Irradiation of packed RBCs will be given to the following patients:
    1. All candidates for stem cell transplantation SCT or patients post-SCT
    1. All severely immunosuppressed, excluding AIDS patients including:
      1. Congenital immunodeficiency states
      1. Intrauterine (i.e. fetal) transfusions
      1. Premature (less than 1500 grams or 28 weeks gestation) infant transfusions
    1. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit patients
    1. All hematopoietic tumors, including
      1. Hodgkin’s disease/lymphoma
      1. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas
      1. All acute leukemias
      1. Myelodysplastic states
      1. Myeloproliferative states
      1. Histiocytosis X, Langerhans histiocytosis
      1. Aplastic anemia
    1. All recipients of directed donations of any type, i.e. apheresis or components prepared from whole blood
    1. Recipients of HLA-selected platelets or platelets known to be HLA homozygous
  2. Irradiation Specification:
    1. Irradiate just prior to release if possible to minimize potassium leakage.
    1. Target 2500 cGy (rads) of gamma irradiation to the mid-plane of the canister of a free-standing irradiator is used or to the central mid-plane of the irradiation field if a radiotherapy instrument is used
  3. Using returned irradiated RBCs:
    1. If an irradiated unit is returned and otherwise meets re-release criteria, it may be used for up to 28 days after the irradiation or the normal outdate limit, whichever is less.
    1. For pediatric use (< 20 kg.), if the component was irradiated more than 24 hours previously, wash it prior to transfusion.

If you are uncertain whether to irradiate, ask the supervisor or the transfusion medicine physician.


  1. Standards for Blood Banks and Transfusion Services, Current Edition, American Association of Blood Banks, Bethesda, MD, USA.
  2. Guidelines to the Preparation, Use, and Quality Assurance of Blood Components, European Committee (Partial Agreement) on Blood Transfusion (CD-P-TS), Current Edition