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"Safety & Availability of an Adequate Blood Supply is Our #1 Priority"

How Blood is Tested

Advances in donor screening and blood testing have dramatically improved blood safety. All blood donated at Red Cross blood centers nationwide --- approximately 50% of the nation's blood supply --- is tested in one of our National Testing Laboratories (NTL's), laboratories designed to adapt rapidly to changing technology and new scientific and medical advancements.

Red Cross NTL's are located in Atlanta, GA; Boston, MA; Charlotte, NC; Detroit, MI; Philadelphia, PA; Portland, OR; St. Louis, MO; and St. Paul, MN. Each has the capacity to test up to 1.2 million samples a year. Should a natural disaster or other event temporarily close one NTL, testing can be transferred to another site, so that the blood supply will not be disrupted.

The Process

At the time of donation, sample tubes of blood are also taken. If you are a donor, you have probably noticed the bar code on the tubes, the blood bags and your donor record. This is how we track your donation.

The tubes are sent to Atlanta where they are spun in a centrifuge to separate the liquid portion (serum) from the cells (white cells and red cells). The red cell portion is used to determine your blood type and the serum is tested for viral diseases.

Test results are transferred electronically back to the Birmingham blood center via computer within 24 hours. Blood that does not pass the laboratory testing is destroyed. If the donor's health is in question, he or she is notified and may be counseled by the Red Cross. Results are CONFIDENTIAL.


We test donated blood to determine the ABO type and Rh status. After you make your first donation, you will receive a Red Cross donor card that tells you your blood type. It is important for a patient to receive blood that is the correct match to prevent a serious reaction. We also screen blood for antibodies that could trigger an adverse reaction.

Disease Testing

Every blood donation is screened using these tests to reduce the risk of disease transmission:

Disease Test Implemented
HIV/AIDS Anti-HIV-1/HIV-2 and
HIV-1 p24 Antigen
HIV-1 1985,
HIV-2 1992,
HIV Antigen 1996
Hepatitis B Hepatitis B Surface Antigen
and Hepatitis B Core Antibody
Hepatitis C Anti-HCV 1990
Hepatitis ALT (Alanine Aminotransferase, liver enzyme) 1986
Syphilis Serologic test for syphilis 1948
Human T-Cell Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV) HTLV-I/II 1988

CMV testing is performed on some units of blood for patiensts who require CMV negative blood, for example, neonates weighing less than 1500 grams, and immuno-compromised or immune-suppressed patients.

For more information about blood testing and transfusion safety, visit:




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