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Questions of A More Technical Nature

Military Blood Typing Accuracy


QUESTION

I was in the military in the 1960's and was typed as an O. While showing my wife how to do the home typing test, I retyped myself and found that I was actually blood type A. At first I thought the kit was inaccurate, but when my doctor retyped me again I was indeed found to be type A. The though that I could have been killed or otherwise injured by an incorrect transfusion is chilling. How often have you seen people innacurately typed in the military?


ANSWER

First, look on the bright side. They typed you as type O, so at least if you had needed blood you would have been given O, which is the universal donor type and would have worked fine.

But how accurate are the standard military blood typing results?

A recent study showed that thirty-four of 923 soldiers (3.7%) demonstrated at least one discrepancy during testing. Of these 34 discrepancies, 22 (2.3%) involved ABO group errors, 10 (1.1%) involved Rh type errors, and 2 (0. 2%) involved both ABO group and Rh type errors. These errors could lead to transfusion of the wrong blood type during wartime. Apparently, this figure may well have been significantly higher during the 1950's and 60's when the typing serum used was pooled human antibody (notoriously fickle) instead of today's monoclonal antibodies.

Should you rely on military blood typing? My feeling is no, especially when inexpensive home testing kits are available to double-check your results.

Rentas FJ, Clark PA. Blood type discrepancies on military identification cards and tags: a readiness concern in the U.S. Army. Mil Med 1999 Nov;164(11):785-7




The Ask Dr. D'Adamo internet advice column ran from 1996 to 2009, at which time Dr. D'Adamo's teaching and programming responsibilities no longer allowed him to devote time and resources to directly answering visitor questions. However we've recently reorganized this treasure-trove of material and made it again available to his readership. He occasionally posts new entries. These are marked with a NEW tag.



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