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OBJECTIVE: To compare four haemoglobin measurement methods in whole blood donors. BACKGROUND: To safeguard donors, blood services measure haemoglobin concentration in advance of each donation. NHS Blood and Transplant's (NHSBT) customary method have been capillary gravimetry (copper sulphate), followed by venous spectrophotometry (HemoCue) for donors failing gravimetry. However, NHSBT's customary method results in 10% of donors being inappropriately bled (ie, with haemoglobin values below the regulatory threshold). METHODS: We compared the following four methods in 21 840 blood donors (aged ≥18 years) recruited from 10 NHSBT centres in England, with the Sysmex XN-2000 haematology analyser, the reference standard: (1) NHSBT's customary method; (2) "post donation" approach, that is, estimating current haemoglobin concentration from that measured by a haematology analyser at a donor's most recent prior donation; (3) "portable haemoglobinometry" (using capillary HemoCue); (4) non-invasive spectrometry (using MBR Haemospect or Orsense NMB200). We assessed sensitivity; specificity; proportion who would have been inappropriately bled, or rejected from donation ("deferred") incorrectly; and test preference. RESULTS: Compared with the reference standard, the methods ranged in test sensitivity from 17.0% (MBR Haemospect) to 79.0% (portable haemoglobinometry) in men, and from 19.0% (MBR Haemospect) to 82.8% (portable haemoglobinometry) in women. For specificity, the methods ranged from 87.2% (MBR Haemospect) to 99.9% (NHSBT's customary method) in men, and from 74.1% (Orsense NMB200) to 99.8% (NHSBT's customary method) in women. The proportion of donors who would have been inappropriately bled ranged from 2.2% in men for portable haemoglobinometry to 18.9% in women for MBR Haemospect. The proportion of donors who would have been deferred incorrectly with haemoglobin concentration above the minimum threshold ranged from 0.1% in men for NHSBT's customary method to 20.3% in women for OrSense. Most donors preferred non-invasive spectrometry. CONCLUSION: In the largest study reporting head-to-head comparisons of four methods to measure haemoglobin prior to blood donation, our results support replacement of NHSBT's customary method with portable haemoglobinometry.

Original publication




Journal article


Transfus Med

Publication Date



HemoCue, gravimetry, haemoglobin screening, inappropriate bleeding, inappropriate deferral, non-invasive haemoglobin measurement, whole blood donor