If you are going to have an operation and will have a significant chance of needing a blood transfusion during or after surgery, then you may be considering asking a family member or friend to donate blood for you to use. Many people consider doing this, because it gives them a feeling of safety. This is called directed donor blood. The directed donor blood program is administered by the American Red Cross in the U.S. If you are considering this option, you should be aware of the following facts:
1) No study has shown that directed donor blood is safer than the general U.S. blood supply, so you may decide that it’s not worth the trouble. This is due to the fact that the general blood supply is a product of extensive screening and testing, so it is very safe overall. Additionally, directed blood donors may feel that they are compelled to donate, which could lead them to answer the blood donor screening questions dishonestly. For this reason, you should never “pressure” your friends or family to donate for you.
2) You will need to have your blood type tested at the hospital in which you are having surgery prior to the directed donation. Obviously, you’ll want the donor to have a compatible type!
3) If possible, arrange to have the blood donated at least one week before surgery. Sometimes the directed donor blood can be prepared with less time, even in 48 hours, so check with your hospital and local Red Cross.
The bottom line is that directed blood donation requires a significant amount of effort without producing any benefit for the patient. But if you are interested in the directed donor program in the U.S., talk to your doctor, have your doctor order a “Type and Screen” blood test at the hospital, and contact the American Red Cross.
More Answers from Steven Scott, MD