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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


ISBT 128 is a system for identification, labeling and processing of human blood, tissue, and cellular therapy products using an internationally standardized system. The acronym ISBT stands for the International Society of Blood Transfusion. The number 128 reflects the choice of barcode symbology known as Code 128.


The current version of the ISBT 128 Standard Technical Specification is version 3.0.0; version 1 was first published in 1994, and was intended to replace the ABC Codabar and other similar CODABAR-based standards in use in transfusion medicine at that time with a more secure barcode symbology which contains more information.

The ISBT working group on automation and data processing was joined by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), the American Red Cross (ARC), the Department of Defense, and the Health Industry Manufacturers Association in the development of the symbology which was adopted as an international standard.

The International Council for Commonality in Blood Banking Automation (ICCBBA) was established and given the responsibility for implementation and management of the new standard. Guidance from the AABB states that all AABB accredited blood banks must implement ISBT 128 by May 1, 2008.

How ISBT 128 works

The ISBT 128 system increases the level of standardization in transfusion medicine. Each blood product is given a unique donation identification number which includes an assigned collection facility code. This allows every product to be specifically identified and tracked anywhere in the world. Specific products and blood treatment processes are labeled the same way every time using this system.

The ISBT 128 barcode allows for more information to be coded into a small space and includes an internal check digit to prevent barcode misreads. Each barcode contains two data identifier characters embedded in the barcode that identifies the type of information coded in the barcode (e.g. ABO/Rh, Product Code) followed by the specific unit information which is reproduced in an eye readable format just below the barcode.

The label information is divided into quadrants. Donor ID (unit number) prints in the upper left quadrant. ABO/Rh prints in the upper right quadrant. Product code prints in the lower left quadrant. Expiration date/time (down to the hour and minute) print in the lower right quadrant along with any special testing (antigens, CMV, etc.)


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