Modern RHD genotyping can be used to determine when patients with serologic weak D phenotypes have RHD gene variants at risk for anti-D alloimmunization. However, serologic testing, RhD interpretations, and laboratory management of these patients are quite variable.


To obtain interlaboratory comparisons of serologic testing, RhD interpretations, Rh immune globulin (RhIG) management, fetomaternal hemorrhage testing, and RHD genotyping for weak D-reactive specimens.


We devised an educational exercise in which 81 transfusion services supporting obstetrics performed tube-method RhD typing on 2 unknown red blood cell challenge specimens identified as (1) maternal and (2) newborn. Both specimens were from the same weak D-reactive donor. The exercise revealed how participants responded to these different clinical situations.


Of reporting laboratories, 14% (11 of 80) obtained discrepant immediate-spin reactions on the 2 specimens. Nine different reporting terms were used to interpret weak D-reactive maternal RhD types to obstetricians. In laboratories obtaining negative maternal immediate-spin reactions, 28% (16 of 57) performed unwarranted antiglobulin testing, sometimes leading to recommendations against giving RhIG. To screen for excess fetomaternal hemorrhage after a weak D-reactive newborn, 47% (34 of 73) of reporting laboratories would have employed a contraindicated fetal rosette test, risking false-negative results, and inadequate RhIG coverage. Sixty percent (44 of 73) of laboratories would obtain RHD genotyping in some or all cases.


For obstetric and neonatal patients with serologic weak D phenotypes, we found several critical problems in transfusion service laboratory practices. We provide recommendations for appropriate testing, consistent immunohematologic terminology, and RHD genotype–guided management of Rh immune globulin therapy and RBC transfusions.

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Author notes

Coauthor Karen E. King, MD, died January 2018.

Ramsey received honoraria from Immucor, Inc. The other authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.

Competing Interests

This article reflects the view of the author and should not be construed to represent the Food and Drug Administration's views or policies.

An abstract of this work was presented in oral session at the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Blood & Biotherapeutics (AABB) on October 15, 2018.