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Lab Services: Autologous Blood Transfusions
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Autologous Blood Transfusions

Note to CDH Patients: Autologous units should be donated only when there is a risk a transfusion could be needed during or following surgery.

Autologous blood donation enables patients to "donate" and store their own blood before a planned surgery. Historically, donating autologous blood was encouraged for transfusions because it was considered a safer alternative to community donated (allogeneic) blood. However, highly sensitive and effective testing procedures have resulted in an all time low rate of blood-transmitted diseases—nationwide—so Allogeneic transfusions do not have as great a risk as they did in the past. The main risk factors are the same for autologous or allogeneic blood.

Is Autologous Donation Appropriate for You?

Not all surgical procedures result in enough blood loss to warrant blood transfusions, so then why donate? If you have a surgery planned, you should discuss autologous blood donation with your physician. If you both agree it is a good option, your physician should complete a Request for Autologous Blood Donation form for the specific healthcare institution at which your surgery is scheduled.

Are You Eligible to Donate?

Most patients are eligible for autologous blood donation. However, if you have any of the following conditions, you may not be able to donate your own blood safely:

  • Heart disease (aortic stenosis, heart attack in the past six months)
  • Anemia
  • High blood pressure that is not under control
  • Active infection, or being treated with antibiotics
  • History of seizures in the past year

What Factors Should be Considered Before Donating?

  • A doctor's order is required to donate an autologous unit.
  • The type of surgery you are having. You need to discuss the procedure and risk with your physician. A low risk surgery could result in your blood being discarded if it isn't needed.
  • You must be in good general health and able to pass blood pressure, pulse, temperature and iron level tests. Certain conditions or illnesses do not permit donation.
  • Donating autologous units before surgery may increase the need for a transfusion during surgery.

When Can You Donate?

Blood may be donated several weeks before the date of your surgery. For your safety, you are only permitted to donate a single unit (pint) of blood at a time. Therefore, you may want to donate more than once to store a larger supply. You may donate one unit (pint) of blood every three days as long as certain requirements are met.  Many physicians restrict patients from donating blood within three to seven days prior to surgery. You should always check in advance with your physician.

Stored and Unused Blood

When you give blood, it is labeled as an autologous donation to be used only for a specific patient—you.  Your blood is refrigerated and stored for up to 42 days. If your blood is not needed for your surgery, or after 42 days of storage, the blood is discarded. It is not used for other patients. Please note you will be billed for autologous blood donation services even if you do not use the blood that has been stored. Charges reflect the time and professional services for blood drawing, storage and related services.

Reasons for a Transfusion

  • Loss of blood from surgery
  • A medical condition

Transfusion Risks and Benefits


  • Infection
  • Adverse reaction to the transfusion
  • Adverse events due to errors


  • Can be life saving in an emergency
  • Can increase the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream needed to increase energy level

Donation Risks and Disadvantages


Your hemoglobin may be lowered going into surgery and could possibly increase a transfusion need not only for autologous blood, but also allogeneic blood.


There is an increased cost for autologous donation.


  • Autologous blood - self-donated blood for one's own surgery
  • Allogeneic blood - community donated blood
  • Hemoglobin - molecule that carries oxygen in the red blood cells