IRL committed to healthcare through special testing

Breaking down acronyms with the experts who work with them day in and day out
August 5, 2019

Lorena Aranda, Director of the Immunohematology Reference Laboratory, oversees the testing, training, and procedures of the San Antonio and Atlanta labs for QualTex Laboratories. She answers the question “What is IRL?”

What is IRL?

IRL stands for Immunohematology Reference Laboratory. The IRL was originally named Special Procedures when the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center opened in 1974 in San Antonio. The name changed in 2009. A second IRL opened in 2011 at the Atlanta QualTex Laboratories facility.

The labs in San Antonio and Atlanta perform routine and complex immunohematology testing on patient, donor and source plasma samples, as well as cord blood. The lab operates 24/7/365.

The IRL is able to provide services that aren’t always available routinely in hospital blood banks. Types of testing and services done in the IRL include:

  • Blood type, antibody screen and crossmatches
  • Antibody identification
    • Using special techniques such as low ionic strength saline, polyethylene glycol, albumin, rabbit erythrocyte stroma (RESt), dithiothreitol (DTT), adsorption studies, or reticulocyte separation and neutralization
  • Antibody titer testing
  • Red blood cell antigen phenotype and genotype
  • Human leukocyte antigen antibody screen
  • Sickle cell testing
  • Human leukocyte antigen matched platelets for refractory patients

Samples come from surgery centers and hospitals, blood centers and source plasma facilities in Texas, nationwide, and internationally.

Between San Antonio and Atlanta, the labs received 10,255 plasma samples for testing last year, with 1,702 screening orders from hospitals.

The San Antonio IRL hosts a Specialist in Blood Bank Technology Program. Students with blood bank experience are prepared to assume advanced positions and training in the field of blood banking during the one-year program.

The IRL follows the latest standards from the AABB and the Code of Federal Regulations for blood banks & transfusion services and immunohematology reference laboratories.

Having the IRL in San Antonio accelerates turnaround time for testing, which helps deliver lifesaving transfusions quicker to patients with a known diagnosis or those in surgery or emergency situations who have made alloantibodies and need common and rare antigen negative blood.

The IRL has also helped with research and developmentby acting as a beta site for new hardware, software and vendors’ medical products.

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