Purpose of review: Since the early 1960s, it was recognized that patients with very complex serology may be limited in the availability of rare blood for transfusion. Over the years, there have been publications about the quest to meet those needs. Although the world's literature on how to find, recruit and maintain rare blood donors is not overwhelming, there are quite a few pearls. This review will seek out those pearls published in 2007-2009 and provides some insight from a perspective of having a responsibility for a nation of patients requiring rare blood for over 15 years.
Recent findings: Most pertinent publications have focused on a particular country and the data gathered by a particular regional area or the national rare donor program. It is clear that the definition of 'rare' varies from country to country. A blood type rare in one country may not be considered rare in another. A few of the publications that will be reviewed are specific to donor recruitment or specific details regarding a particular blood type. Recently, with the advent of semi-automated equipment to assist in DNA analysis, there has been a volley of articles on the use of this equipment.Without effective rare donor programs, there is a risk that transfusion needs may not be met. Hemovigilance concentrates on adverse events related to blood transfusions, and the event that happens when rare blood is not available may be that the patient dies without the transfusion they need.
Summary: The need for rare blood has been recognized for nearly 50 years, and there are some very effective programs across the world, but not all the areas of the world are equally supplied. The International Society of Blood Transfusion Working Party for Rare Donors is a vital link in the worldwide goal of providing rare blood to the patients who need it.