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Blood Transfusions

If you need blood, you have several options. These options may be limited by time and health factors. You may need to check with your insurance company regarding its reimbursement policy related to blood transfusion.

Some surgeries do not require blood transfusion. Although you have the right to refuse a blood transfusion, this decision may hold life-threatening consequences. If you have questions about your options relating to blood transfusions, please ask your physician.

Using Your Own Blood - Autologous Donation

Using your own blood can minimize the need for transfusion with donor blood. Using your own blood will reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of transfusion-related infections and allergic reactions.

Autologous blood donations are not an option for all patients. You may want to ask your doctor if it is safe for you to donate. Ask your doctor if autologous donation is appropriate for you.

Donating BEFORE Surgery

Blood banks can draw your blood and store it for your use. This process usually is performed for a planned surgery. Blood can be stored for only a limited period of time, so coordinating the donations with the date of surgery is an important consideration.

Donating DURING Surgery

Immediately before surgery, your doctor may be able to remove some of your blood and replace it with other fluids. After surgery, the blood that was removed may be returned to you.

In addition, the surgeon may be able to recycle your blood during surgery. Blood that is normally lost and discarded during surgery may be collected, processed and returned to you. A large volume of your blood can be recycled in this way.

Either of these methods may minimize or eliminate the need to be transfused with someone else's blood.

Donating AFTER Surgery

Blood that is lost after surgery may be collected, filtered, and returned to you. This process may minimize or eliminate the need to be transfused with someone else's blood.

Using Someone Else's Blood

If you choose not to donate your own blood, or if more blood is required than expected, you will receive blood from community or designated donors, if necessary.

Community Donors

Hospitals maintain a supply of community donor blood to meet transfusion needs. Volunteer (unpaid) community blood donors are screened by a thorough medical history, and then tested with the most accurate technology available.

Although blood and blood products can never be 100% safe, the risk is very small. As of 1998, infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) occurs less than once per 500,000 units of blood transfused. Hepatitis C infection occurs about once per 100,000 units, and Hepatitis B occurs about once every 60,000 units. Other infections are transmitted much less often.

Designated Donors

Although the blood supply today is very safe, some patients prefer to receive blood from people they know - "designated donors." There is no medical evidence that this blood is safer than that from volunteer donors. In some cases it may be less safe because donors known to the patient may not reveal embarrassing information about their personal history, assuming the blood tests will detect any infection. Since tests do not always detect viruses, blood donated by someone whose recent behavior put them at risk of HIV or other viruses could pass the screening measures, and transmit disease to a patient.

Designated donors must meet the same requirements as community donors. Advance notice is required to accommodate a request for designated donors, as additional processing may be required.

For more information

If you have additional questions about your options relating to blood transfusion, please refer these questions to your physician. Information can also be obtained by calling your local community blood center or hospital blood bank. Doctors and other health care professionals who work in blood centers are experts in blood transfusion therapy and may be helpful in answering your questions.