Minimizing Iron Deficiency in Blood Donors


HMC Blood Donor Center is implementing a policy to limit or help limit iron deficiency in its blood donors (whole blood and/or apheresis).  The reasons for this are:

  1. Development of iron deficiency in some donors
  2. Progression of iron deficiency that occurs with frequent blood donation
  3. Potential adverse effects of iron deficiency


Donors high-risk for iron loss include:

  1. Females—all, regardless of age
  2. Males donating three or more times within a 12-month period
  3. Apheresis donors giving 5 sessions in an 8-week period
  4. Donors after one RBC apheresis dual-unit donation
  5. Males and females with borderline low hemoglobin levels:
    1. Males with hemoglobin <= 13.5 g/dl
    2. Females with hemoglobin <= 13.0 g/dl
  6. Donors with low ferritin level (below current lower limit of reference range)


  1. Donors will be provided with information regarding iron-deficiency from donation.
  2. High risk donors (as defined above) will be offered a prescription for iron supplementation equivalent to 18 mg of elemental iron daily for 30 days.
  3. During the iron supplementation period, the donor will be deferred for donation.
  4. If a donor does not take the iron supplement, then he/she is limited to 2 donations/year.
  5. We will offer donors to test ferritin in the following categories:
    1. Apheresis donors after their fifth donation of plasma or platelets within 8 weeks
    2. Whole blood donors after three donations within a 12-month period
    3. Donors after dual-unit (2-unit) RBC apheresis donation
    4. All female donors otherwise meeting donor criteria before donation
  6. Donors with low ferritin levels will be deferred until ferritin levels are normal (based on reference range currently in effect)


AABB Association Bulletin #17-02, Updated Strategies to Limit or Prevent Iron Deficiency in Blood Donors, 26/3/17

Updated 6/9/20

Sample Resident Examination for Donor Center

Reading Assignments:

  • Chapters 5-9:  Blood Donation and Collection in Technical Manual, 16th Edition
  • Standards for Blood Banks and Transfusion Services, AABB, 25th Edition

Study Questions:

  1. Which of the following candidates is acceptable for donation?
    1. Saudi, visited Sudan 11 months ago as part of National Guard exchange
    2. Saudi former student lived in UK for 2 years from 1993-95
    3. Normotensive taking amlodipine and valsartan
    4. Psoriatic using Tegison
    5. Male adult using ibuprofen for lower back pain
    6. Female 4 weeks post-partum
    7. Husband of patient with recent onset of hepatitis B infection
    8. Male stopped taking ampicillin one week ago for acute pharyngitis
    9. Donor with WBC count 12000/cmm but otherwise normal
  2. Which of the following donors is suitable for autologous donation?
    1. Cataract surgery patient
    2. Well, but had gastroenteritis 3 days ago
    3. Pregnant with Hgb 11 g/dl
    4. CGL patient with Hgb 13 g/dl
    5. Hodgkin’s disease patient Hgb 12 for exploratory laparotomy
    6. Patient with rare antibody anti-Tja, Hgb 13 for cholecystecomy
  3. How do you handle the following events?
    1. Donor draw fills bag with bright red blood in 30 seconds
    2. Donor faints when needle is shown
    3. Lipemic serum during donor plateletpheresis session
    4. Donor with numbness and tingling of extremities during donor apheresis session
  4. How would you handle the following therapeutic phlebotomy requests?
    1. Hgb 22 g/dl, suspected polycythemia rubra vera
    2. Hgb 13, suspected hemochromatosis patient
    3. Hgb 16, renal failure patient post-erythropoietin treatment
    4. Unstable angina, Hgb 9
  5. What is the final volume of each of the following blood components?
    1. Whole blood
    2. Packed RBCs—state hematocrit as well
    3. Washed RBCs
    4. Irradiated packed cells
    5. Platelet pool—state number of platelets
    6. FFP
    7. Cryo-poor plasma
    8. Cryoprecipitate
  6. What are the outdates of each of the following components?
    1. Packed RBCs
    2. Platelet pool
    3. FFP frozen at -35C
    4. Granulocyte concentrate
  7. Which donor units are acceptable for transfusion?
    1. HBsAg negative, HBcAb positive, HBsAb > 20 IU/liter
    2. HCV Ab positive, RIBA-3 negative, HCV-RNA negative
    3. Syphilis positive, FTA-ABS negative



Advanced Hematology Resident Training in Donor Center and Apheresis


  1. Donor criteria based on AABB standards
    1. Is it safe for the donor to donate?
    2. Medical history
      1. Current medical conditions
      2. Past medical conditions
  2. Medications
  3. Vaccinations
  4. Travel history
  5. High-risk behaviors
  7. COVID-19 convalescent plasma CCP
  8. Prion diseases
  9. Donor medical examination
  10. Is it safe for the recipient to receive the donor’s blood?
  11. Donor registration issues
    1. Positive identification
    2. Donor deferral database
  12. Donor phlebotomy
    1. Safe volume to donate
    2. Anticoagulant-preservative solutions
    3. Time limit for phlebotomy
    4. Post-donation care
  13. Donor reactions—Dx and Rx of the following:
    1. Vasovagal
    2. Seizures
    3. Air embolism
    4. Arterial stick
    5. Hematoma
  14. Donor Apheresis
    1. Plateletpheresis
    2. Plasmapheresis
    3. Plateletpheresis with concurrent plasma collection
    4. RBC collection
    5. Combined platelet, plasma, and RBC collection
  15. Autologous donation
    1. Predeposit
    2. Perioperative
    3. Intraoperative
    4. Postoperative
  16. Donor self-deferral
  17. Therapeutic Phlebotomy
  18. Therapeutic Apheresis
    1. Therapeutic plasma exchange/plasmapheresis
    2. Leukapheresis
    3. Thrombapheresis
    4. Red cell exchange
    5. Stem cell collection
    6. Column absorption technologies
    7. Clinical indications
    8. Writing orders for above procedures
  19. Component Processing:
    1. Manual
    2. Automated—Reveos
    3. Pathogen Inactivation Mirasol
    4. Buffy coat vs classic platelet-rich plasma platelets and pools
    5. Platelet Additive Solution PAS
    6. FFP, FP24, thawed plasma
    7. Cryoprecipitate
    8. Cryo-poor plasma (plasma, cryoprecipitate-removed)
    9. COVID-19 convalescent plasma CCP

Clinical Responsibilities (after proven competence):

  1. Triage of donor requests
  2. Handling of donor reactions
  3. Approval of therapeutic phlebotomies
  4. Assistance with therapeutic apheresis


  1. Pre-training/baseline
  2. Competency documentation for clinical responsibilities (#11 above)
  3. Post-training

Working Hours:

  1. 0900-1700, Saturday through Wednesday
  2. Must carry pager for clinical responsibilities

Reviewed 17/8/20

Autologous Transfusion and Responsibilities

This is the process I developed for HMC Doha. The Medical Director (here Head, Transfusion Medicine HTM) is actively involved in the development of policies, processes, and procedures for ALL types of autologous donation in conjunction with the National Transfusion Committee NTC.

  1. Predeposit:  Directly under the control of the HTM for all aspects:  policies, procedures, and direct performance of the procedures, including annual review of criteria
  2. Perioperative:  HTM involved in conjunction with Surgery and Anesthesia through the NTC.
  3. Intraoperative:  HTM involved in conjunction with Surgery and Anesthesia through the NTC.
  4. Postoperative:  HTM involved in conjunction with Surgery and Anesthesia through the NTC.


There are four basic types of autologous transfusion:  preoperative, perioperative hemodilution, intraoperative, and postoperative drainage/collection.  The use of all of the above techniques can significantly decrease the need for homologous blood and as an added benefit reduce the risk of the disease transmission and immunosuppressive effects of such homologous transfusions.

Preoperative collection can make available packed red blood cells, whole blood, platelets, FFP, and/or cryoprecipitate.  However, at most two units of blood per week can be collected.  RBC’s can be stored for up to 42 days in the liquid state, frozen RBC’s up to ten years, platelets up to five days, and fresh frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate up to one year.  The last collection cannot be less than 72 hours prior to the surgery time.  Units can be collected as long as the patient’s hematocrit remains above 33%.  Supplemental iron and erythropoietin can increase the number of units harvested.  The biggest obstacle to using this service is the coordination of the patient scheduling for this procedure.  The blood bank does not have the resources to prospectively analyze the surgical scheduling and make the various appointments, contact the attending physician, etc.  Thus, this service is vastly underutilized.

PHD or Perioperative hemodilution (also called acute normovolemic hemodilution) is useful in cases when the anticipated blood loss is at least one liter and the initial hematocrit is at least 34%.  This includes essentially all types of surgery, but in particular cardiac, vascular, orthopedic, and urologic cases.  The patient’s hematocrit Hct. is lowered to the range of 20-25% and the blood is replaced by crystalloid in a ratio of 3:1–i.e. three times as much fluid as blood, or in the case of colloid replacement, a 1:1 ratio of colloid plus 0.5 to 1.0 ml. of crystalloid.  Crystalloid has the advantage of being readily removed by diuretic use.  However, this technique should not be undertaken when vascular access is inadequate or appropriate monitoring devices are lacking.  The physician performing PHD must be familiar with the compensatory mechanisms normally invoked when the hemoglobin is acutely lowered.

Another new twist to PHD is the perioperative collection of platelets by a special attachment to a cell-saving machine.  This could allow collection of a typical apheresis load, about 6 to 10 units of fresh platelets for potential use.  There are currently studies underway to determine if this has particular clinical advantages to warrant the additional cost.

Intraoperative salvage may be performed with a number of canister or automated devices.  The latter is usually used when there are large volumes (usually 3 or more units) of blood to be salvaged.  Depending on the body site, the recovered material is at least filtered and may or may not be washed.  Care must be taken to collect the blood at a low suction rate and with minimal turbulence to minimize hemolysis.

Postoperative drainage collection of certain sites such as post-knee replacement surgery or chest wounds involves a canister collection device.  This blood may or may not be filtered before reinfusion.

Note that perioperative and intraoperative material can only be transfused up to six or eight hours at room temperature or 24 hours if refrigerated at 1-6 degrees (depending on the method used) post collection to minimize the risk of infection.  Intraoperative collection is usually contraindicated in cases of cancer and if the bowel has been violated.

Other Issues:

The transfusion criteria for autologous blood is the same as for allogeneic units. If you wouldn’t transfuse if no autologous blood were available, you shouldn’t transfuse because you have it!

The same compatibility testing algorithm applies both the autologous and allogeneic units.


  1. Scope:
    1. Predeposit collection of Whole Blood/RBCs and plasma is under the authority of Transfusion Medicine.
    2. Perioperative hemodilution, intraoperative cell salvage, and postoperative drainage collection is under the authority of the National Transfusion Committee in conjunction with the Departments of Surgery and Anesthesia.
      1. Head, Transfusion Medicine will liaise with the clinical departments as needed.
      2. Transfusion Medicine may provide blood bags for perioperative hemodilution upon request.
    3. Transfusion Medicine does not receive autologous collections—perioperative, intraoperative, or postoperative drainage collection.
  2. Processes directly under Transfusion Medicine authority:
    1. Autologous collection of whole blood/RBCs (predeposit) for elective surgeries will be considered especially if the patient has a dangerous antibody for which antigen-matched units cannot be easily obtained (e.g. anti-k (cellano), anti-PP1Pk (anti-Tja), anti-H (Bombay and Para-Bombay phenotypes).
    2. Autologous collection of plasma may be considered for patients with IgA deficiency with documented specific anti-IgA antibodies.
    3. Autologous collection of platelets may be considered for patients with anti-platelet antibodies and platelet refractoriness.
    4. Other requests will be reviewed by the Head, Transfusion Medicine or designate.
    5. The final decision to proceed with items 2.1 and 2.2 will be made by the Head, Transfusion Medicine or his designate.
  3. Process for Transfusion Medicine Autologous Procedures
    1. The requesting physician shall provide a written order to the Blood Donor Center.
    2. The request will be reviewed by a transfusion medicine physician.
    3. If rejected, the requesting physician will be notified with the reason for the rejection.
    4. If approved, the donor shall be screened by the usual donation process except:
      1. Hgb >= 11 g/dl will be acceptable for whole blood collection.
      2. Females may also donate autologous plasma.
      3. The last autologous donation will be at least 72 hours before the elective procedure.
    5. Marker testing:  Components from autologous donors with confirmed positive cases of HBV, HCV, HIV, syphilis, malaria, or HTLV infection will NOT be used for autologous donation and will be destroyed.
    6. Computer:  Autologous collections will be entered as specifically as such in the Medinfo  Hematos IIG blood bank computer system and be labeled as autologous in their corresponding ISBT labels.
    7. Crossover of autologous units requires review and approval by a transfusion medicine physician–only those cases where the donor met the standard donor criteria will be considered.
    8. The transfusion criteria for autologous units shall be the same as for homologous blood.
    9. Both autologous and allogeneic units will follow the same compatibility testing algorithm.


  1. Standards for Blood Banks and Transfusion Services, 29th Edition, AABB, Bethesda, MD, USA, 2014
  2. TRM.41600 CAP Checklist Standard, 2015