Directed Donor Blood Donation

What is Directed Donor Blood Donation?

If an individual requires blood for heart surgery, that blood can be provided from a blood bank using community donors, such as the Southwest Washington Blood Program (a division of the Puget Sound Blood Center used in the Legacy Health System) or from the American Red Cross. Alternatively, an individual can receive blood from a directed donor, which means blood from a parent or relative, or from banking blood from themselves in advance, which is called autologous blood donation. Autologous blood donation will not be discussed in this blog.

Currently approximately 1% of all blood collected is for directed donations. Most directed donations of blood are for red blood cells. Interest in directed blood donation arises out of concern regarding the risk of transmission of a virus at the time of a blood transfusion. It turns out, however, that directed donor blood is no safer than use of blood bank blood and this was demonstrated by a study in 1992, performed by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. This study compared 31,000 directed donors to 384,000 first-time community blood donors. The conclusion was that blood from directed donors was neither safer nor measurably less safe than blood bank blood.

There are special administrative issues involved with directed donor blood and often this needs to be organized well in advance of surgery to identify a potential donor and to make sure that the donor meets all the criteria that are required for routine blood donation. There are higher administrative costs which are not paid by insurance and are the responsibility of the family. Directed donor blood is always irradiated to kill any remaining white blood cells to prevent a rare but usually fatal complication called transfusion related graft versus host disease.

When making your final decision regarding whether you want directed donor blood for your child or relative, please keep in mind the above mentioned considerations as well as the fact that most blood banks generally do not recommend directed donation, also some blood programs do not offer this service. If you are interested in proceeding with directed blood donation, please inform our office staff at least two weeks prior to surgery.

Marc D. Le Gras, B.Sc., M.D., C.M.

Pediatric Cardiology

Pediatric Electrophysiology and Pacing