Autologous donation: Can I donate my own blood before cancer surgery?

autologous donation
If you are facing surgery as treatment for your cancer, you may need a blood transfusion during the surgery. Sometimes people are nervous about receiving another person’s blood. Any blood transfusion may result in minor side effects including fever, chills or hives. Although there is a possibility of a serious reaction, rarely do these occur. Improved donor screening and blood testing procedures have made the nation’s blood supply safer than it has ever been. But there is often the option of making your own blood donation, called an autologous donation, in advance to use during your surgery.

Your blood will be kept refrigerated in a sealed plastic container until it is needed. Autologous donation is an option for many patients. Here are some important facts to consider:

  • Autologous donation is not without risk for the donor (patient). If you have low red blood counts, have an infection, or fill ill you should not donate blood.
  • Not everyone is able to donate their own blood. Donors must have veins large enough for the needle used, a hematocrit (measure of red blood cells) of 33% or higher. You must also be able to fully extend your arms and remain still through the procedure.
  • Autologous Blood is not collected at U-M Hospital. Blood collection agencies such as the American Red Cross collect autologous blood for our patients and ship it directly to U-M Hospital Blood Bank labeled specifically for the intended patient.
  • Timing is key. Autologous Blood has a limited shelf life: 35-42 days. Autologous donors should allow 10 days between their last donation and anticipated need for the blood.
  • Collecting a unit of autologous blood is more costly than using blood from the volunteer blood supply. In addition to the costs of collecting a unit of blood, autologous donor blood requires separate storage, special tracking, and additional administrative costs. Blood centers collecting autologous blood charge the UM Hospital Blood Bank a fee for autologous blood in addition to the cost of providing the blood itself. Some insurance companies do not pay the additional fees associated with these services. You will be charged a fee for these services, whether the blood is used by you or not. Out-of-area collection centers may charge additional fees for shipping as well. These fees are non-refundable.

To plan for your autologous donation

  • Time your donation so the blood does not outdate by the date of surgery and so there is enough time between the donation and the surgery for you to fully recover.
  • Contact your doctor to determine how much blood may be needed and to have the doctor complete the required forms.
  • If you have questions, contact U-M Apheresis Procedure Unit (APU) at 734-936-6900 to obtain information and assistance in arranging donation. APU will send the doctor’s order by FAX to the collection center offices. The patient then calls the blood center directly to arrange an appointment for donation.

Blood collection agencies

  • Southeast Michigan Red Cross: 313-494-2899
  • Great Lakes (Lansing) Red Cross: 800-968-4283 ext 335
  • Grand Valley (Grand Rapids) Blood Center: 616-774-2300
  • Toledo Red Cross: 419-535-0707

Take the next step:

  • Learn more (PDF) from the University of Michigan Health System’s Blood Bank and Transfusion Service.
  • Read this explanation from the American Cancer Society on how blood transfusions are done.
  • Learn about types of transfusions from the American Cancer Society.
  • Still have questions? Call the nurses at the University of Michigan Cancer AnswerLine™. They can help patients or their loved ones find a clinical trial or provide insights into the newest and latest cancer treatments. Feel free to call at 1-800-865-1125 or send an e-mail.

2013 annette 1The Cancer AnswerLine™ nurses are experienced in oncology care, including helping patients and their families who have questions about cancer. These registered oncology nurses are available by calling 800-865-1125 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Your call is always free and confidential.



Cancer-center-informal-vertical-sig-150x150The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.