Transfusion medicine laboratories routinely perform a series of pretransfusion serological tests including: ABO grouping, Rh typing, and investigation of the recipient's serum to detect antibodies against blood group antigens (antibody screen). As a final check, most laboratories also perform a crossmatch in which the recipient's serum is incubated with the donor's red cells followed by the addition of an antiglobulin reagent (antiglobulin crossmatch). The need for the antiglobulin crossmatch when the antibody screen is negative has been questioned because there are few antibodies that are detected by this test. Such antibodies are usually directed against low incidence antigens that are not expressed on the screening cells and in many cases the clinical importance of these antibodies is uncertain. For these reasons, we performed a prospective study in which patients requiring red cell transfusion had a group and screen performed. If the antibody screen was negative the antiglobulin crossmatch was omitted. Following the transfusion of the blood, the antiglobulin crossmatch was performed to look for any potential incompatibility. All patients were monitored both serologically and clinically.
Over the 2‐year interval of the study 9128 patients were entered. There were 8936 patients (97·9%) with a negative antibody screen and 26·9% (2404 patients) were transfused a total of 10899 red cell concentrates. The antiglobulin crossmatch performed after the transfusion indicated that 168 red cell concentrates (1·5%) would have been incompatible if the antiglobulin crossmatch had been performed pretransfusion. These 168 red cell concentrates were transfused to 119 patients during 130 transfusion episodes (defined as all transfusions administered within 24 h). Of the 130 transfusion episodes, 79·2% (103/130) were false positive laboratory results. There were 27 transfusion episodes where the antiglobulin crossmatch on blood transfused was positive due to an IgG antibody. Even though these transfused red cell concentrates were designated incompatible by the antiglobulin crossmatch, none of the patients receiving this blood had clinical or serological evidence of haemolysis. We concluded that the antiglobulin phase of the crossmatch can be omitted from pretransfusion testing without putting patients at risk.