Who are Autologous Donors?
Autologous donors are those who store 1 or more pints of their own blood prior to a scheduled treatment or surgery that may require a transfusion.
Why is Autologous Donation a good option?
Giving and receiving your own blood is a proven way to reduce the risks of contracting an infectious disease or developing other complications that sometimes occur when you receive blood from a volunteer donor.
Who is eligible to be an Autologous Donor?
Even people who can't donate blood for others may be eligible to give blood for themselves. Here are some general guidelines:
- National Institutes of Health (NIH) patients can donate blood for themselves with the approval of their physician. A medical order must be sent to the NIH Blood Bank requesting autologous donations.
- At the NIH, autologous blood is discarded if it is not transfused to the donor.
- Regulatory agencies such as the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have developed autologous donation criteria to ensure your safety and the safety of those handling the blood. Eligibility criteria for autologous donors differs in many ways from that for donors giving blood for others. The NIH Blood Bank Special Donations Coordinator can be reached at (301) 402-4482 and can answer your questions about eligibility.
- You cannot donate if your red blood cell count is low. To prevent anemia that can occur when you donate several units of blood in a short period, your doctor may recommend that you take an oral iron supplement prior to and throughout the donation period.
How often can I donate my own blood?
More than 1 unit of blood is usually needed for major surgery or during treatments that require blood transfusion. Because blood can be stored for only 42 days, you must plan ahead (4-6 weeks) so there will be enough time to donate the needed number of units. Autologous donors can give as often as once a week, but donations must be discontinued at least a week before surgery.
How do I arrange to donate blood for myself?
If you are an NIH patient interested in arranging autologous donation, contact the Special Donations Coordinator by calling (301) 402-4482. Someone is available to take your call 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. During other hours, leave a message, and the coordinator will return your call as soon as possible. The coordinator can answer questions related to donation criteria and will provide specific instructions for obtaining a physician's order and for scheduling appointments for donation.