Blood donation occurs when a person donates his own blood, either for another, specific person or to a general blood bank. In contrast, in an autologous blood donation, the person who donates blood will also receive it, often at a later date. This may be done prior to a surgery, if there is a possibility that the patient could need a blood transfusion.
Patients who choose to have an autologous blood donation may eliminate potential errors in the regulation of donated blood. For instance, there is no possibility that the blood type will not match, which allows the patient to avoid a fatal transfusion reaction. The use of the patient's own blood also nearly eliminates any risk of transmitting unknown diseases, infections, or other impurities.
While the advantages tend to outweigh the disadvantages, there are potential drawbacks to an autologous blood donation. Due to human error, the patient's own blood may be mislabeled, which can result in the patient receiving blood from a general blood bank instead. It is also possible for the blood to be contaminated during the process of blood donation. Often, not all the blood may be required during the surgery. Typically, such unused blood is discarded, however, sometimes it may be used for another patient.
There are three types of autologous blood donations. An intra-operative salvage occurs when the surgeon uses a device called a cell saver during the operation. The cell saver collects blood that is lost during the surgery, in order for the patient to receive it later. A postoperative cell salvage collects lost blood immediately after the procedure.
The third type of procedure is the most common. Known as a preoperative autologous blood donation (PABD), it allows the patient to begin donating blood about six weeks prior to his surgery. This type of blood collection must stop three days prior to the surgery, however.
Patients must usually go to a blood bank for a preoperative autologous blood donation, rather than the hospital. Vital signs will be taken — such as the patient's temperature, pulse, and blood pressure — to ensure that the patient is healthy enough for blood donation. The patient will also need to provide his complete medical history, as well as undergo a fingerstick blood test to check for anemia. Since the patient will be receiving his own blood, having medications in the bloodstream is not usually a factor in autologous blood donation eligibility. If deemed necessary, the patient may be prescribed iron pills to help boost the red blood cell count prior to surgery.