URMC Labs - Clinical Laboratory Services

Autologous Blood Donations

If you are having surgery that is scheduled several weeks in advance, you may be able to plan for an autologous blood transfusion. This is a transfusion in which you receive your own blood which was drawn before your surgery.

There are several benefits to receiving your own blood. There is no risk of reaction to foreign antigens. Since your body recognizes its own blood, it is readily accepted. There is also no possibility of disease being transmitted from the blood of another person.

An autologous blood transfusion is only possible when your surgery is planned well in advance. This is not an option for emergency surgery. Also, blood that is drawn at Strong Memorial Hospital is only available for surgeries that are performed here or at Highland Hospital. For surgeries performed elsewhere, you will need to contact the hospital where your surgery will be performed or the American Red Cross.

If you are interested in having an autologous blood transfusion, here are the steps you need to take.

Step 1: Ask your doctor

If you would like to donate your blood for an upcoming surgery, ask your doctor if this is an option for you. Your doctor can determine if your health allows you to safely donate blood and if the type of surgery planned will likely require transfusion.

Donors who are considered "High Risk" will be evaluated by the Blood Bank Physician at the time of the first donation. "High Risk" donors include cardiac patients, patients with infections or seizure disorders, pregnant patients and pediatric patients (children must be at least ten years old, and weigh at least 65 pounds).

Step 2: Prepare for your donation

It is important for your body and blood to be as healthy as possible. To help keep your hemoglobin high, you should take an iron supplement. The recommended dose is 65mg of elemental iron. This amount of iron supplement can be obtained in ferrous sulfate, 325 mg, taken 2 times a day with orange juice or a meal. We recommend this dose of iron to be taken up to 4 months after surgery, too. A diet high in natural iron content will also help to keep your iron level adequate for donation.

Step 3: Schedule your appointment

Once you and your doctor select a date for your surgery, your doctor must complete a request form for autologous blood donation. Your doctor will need to include the following information on the prescription:

  • Your legal name
  • Your date of birth
  • The date of your operation
  • How many units of blood you will need

After your doctor has mailed or faxed the request form to the Donor Program, you can contact the Blood Bank secretary to schedule an appointment. You may need more than one appointment, based on the amount of blood you need to donate. Your appointments must be at least 3 days apart. All autologous blood donations must be completed at least 3 days prior to your surgery. It is preferable to schedule donations at least 7 days apart and at least 7 days before surgery. It is also a good idea to make appointments well ahead of time in the event you need to reschedule due to illness, low blood count, or difficulty in drawing your blood.

Also, it is best to have someone drive you to your appointments and drive you home afterwards.

To schedule your appointment, call (585) 275-9662.

Step 4: Make your donation

On the day of your appointment, be sure to eat normally. Also, drink plenty of fluids.
At your donation appointment, a brief medical history will be taken and a drop of blood will be analyzed for hemoglobin content. You will be asked for a current list of medications taken within the last month. If you are taking an antibiotic you may not be eligible for donation. Call the Blood Bank Donation Program before your appointment to see if donation is possible. Your pulse, blood pressure, and temperature will also be checked. Once all criteria are met, your blood will be drawn.

The procedure is done by a skilled, specially trained technician and takes seven to ten minutes. There may be a slight sting when the needle is inserted, but there should be no pain during the donation. The materials, including the needle used for donation, are new, disposable and are used only once for your donation.

You will give a little less than one pint of whole blood at each donation. The average adult has between eight and twelve pints of blood and can easily spare one. You will rest after the donation and be served refreshments. Plan to spend about an hour at your appointment.

Important Facts about Autologous Blood Donations

  • Autologous blood is collected by appointment only.
  • Your autologous units may be insufficient for your needs. If so, you may receive additional blood from the community blood supply.
  • Autologous blood is for your use only and will not be released to the community blood supply.
  • To help maintain your blood hemoglobin at an acceptable level, we recommend taking an iron supplement, 65 mg of elemental iron (325 mg of ferrous sulfate), two times a day. It is best to take the ferrous sulfate with a meal or with juice. We also have suggestions for a diet high in natural iron content.
  • There is a chance that you may not be eligible to donate based on your medical history and physical exam. Healthy donor criteria must be met.
  • You may not be eligible to donate if the technician has difficulty in accessing your veins.

Questions and Answers

Q: Should I eat before my blood donation?
A: Yes. Eat regularly and drink plenty of fluids before your donation.
Q: How long does the collection process take?
A: The actual collection of the blood takes 7-10 minutes. However, it will take 20-30 minutes to complete your health history and mini-physical and to create the unique labels and paperwork necessary to assure proper identification of your blood unit.
Q: Should I stop taking my medication before my donation appointment?
A: Although we will ask for a list of the medication you are taking, you should continue taking them as instructed by your doctor.
Q: What are the age limits for participating in this program?
A: The lower age limit is determined by a child's ability to understand and cooperate during the procedure. Donors should be 10 years or older and must weigh at least 65 pounds. A parent or guardian must be present at the first donation to give consent for a child under 18 years of age. There is no upper age limit. Eligibility for everyone depends on passing the brief medical history and physical exam.
Q: When should I begin my donation?
A: Donation schedules are tailored to meet your needs and depend on the number of units that need to be collected. Donations can start up to 35 days before your scheduled surgery and are usually scheduled once a week. You may not donate within 72 hours of your surgery.
Q: Will my blood be tested for diseases?
A: At this time viral and infectious marker testing is not a requirement for autologous donations when the transfusion occurs at the collecting facility. The only testing done is an ABO/Rh typing and an antibody screen. Infectious disease testing is required if the unit will be used at Highland Hospital.
Q: Will the blood I donate meet all my transfusion needs?
A: The autologous units you donate will be stored for your surgery. However, blood components other than whole blood or packed cells, such as plasma and platelets, are also sometimes used. Additionally, it is possible that you will need more packed cells than the autologous units you donated. When blood components or additional packed cells are needed they will be obtained from the community blood supply, which are carefully screened and extensively tested for infectious diseases.
Q: What do I do if my surgery is postponed?
A: If your surgery is postponed, rescheduled, cancelled or if additional surgery is planned, you must notify the Strong Memorial Hospital Donor Program at (585) 275-9662 as soon as possible. If the SMH Donor Program is not kept informed, your blood may expire unnecessarily or may not be available when you need it.
Q: If I donate my own blood for my surgery, what happens to it if I do not need it?
A: Autologous units are not intended for other patients and will be destroyed after they expire.
Q: How do I know I will receive my own blood?
A: We use a unique system of identification and tagging of the units of blood with patient name and medical record number. This ensures that you will receive your own blood.
Q: What should I do if I'm feeling ill on the day of my appointment or currently taking an antibiotic?
A: Please call the Strong Memorial Hospital Donor Program at (585) 275-9662 as soon as possible to determine if a donation can still take place.

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