Can I donate my own blood for use in surgery?

You can donate your own blood for use in surgery, but it will require some coordination, because you will need some lead time to restore blood loss before the surgery. But with proper planning it can happen.
Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgery

Yes, a patient can bank their own blood for surgery. However, the process does take some time (several weeks to several months) to store enough blood for a major operation. Having said that, blood centers are now generally very aggressive at screening blood and transfusions are very safe.

Some medical institutions do allow for such practices. However, in robotic prostate surgery, which is my area of expertise, significant blood loss is so rare that most patients don’t need to worry about the source of a hypothetical blood transfusion.  The robot allows for improved 3-dimensional visualization within the abdomen, and 360 degree rotation of the surgical instruments when removing the prostate gland. Using SMART (Samadi Modified Advanced Robotic Technique) surgery, we carefully spare the nerves that surround the prostate gland, leading to excellent postoperative sexual and urinary outcomes in addition to definitive removal of the cancer.  The procedure is minimally invasive, and the average blood loss among my patients is less than 100cc.

That depends on how much time you have to prepare for surgery and the likelihood that your operation will require a blood transfusion. Donating your own blood for surgery is called autologous blood donation. In the U.S., it is coordinated by the American Red Cross, as is other blood donation.  You may consider donating blood for yourself if the following conditions apply:

1) You are having surgery in which there is a significant chance that you will require blood.  This would include heart surgery, spine surgery, some operations for cancer, and major orthopedic surgery. Because of safety issues, your blood cannot be used for someone else if you don’t use it. 

2)  You should have an adequate time period for your body to regenerate the amount of blood donated before surgery.  You may donate for yourself 3-5 days before surgery, but your surgeon may desire a longer period of time between blood donation and surgery (it may take up to 6 weeks for your body to regenerate all the donated cells).  You may donate more than once, actually every 4-7 days as long as your blood count doesn’t drop significantly. Again, talk to your surgeon.  Some people will take iron to give their blood production a boost. 

3) You must be in fairly good health to donate autologous blood.  Some patients with heart conditions or acute illnesses will not be allowed to donate.  If you are anemic, you will not be allowed to donate.

If you are interested in autologous blood donation in the U.S., you should talk to your doctor.  Then contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS to schedule an appointment and obtain the donation form for your doctor to sign. 

Using your own blood, called autologous donation, is a transfusion option for patients who are having surgery. You can donate one or more units of your own blood up to six weeks before your surgery. Most surgical procedures do not require transfusion, so autologous donations are not necessary for such procedures. Many autologous units are never used and are discarded. Ask your physician if this option is appropriate for your surgical procedure.
Another method used to replace lost blood during surgery is intraoperative autologous transfusion (IAT). This procedure allows the doctors in the operating room to recover blood lost during surgery and immediately return it to you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.