Blood Donor Screening

Most blood donors are volunteers. However, sometimes a patient may want to donate blood prior to undergoing surgery, so their blood is available in case a transfusion becomes necessary. Patients donating for themselves are exempt from many of the following requirements. Feel free to check with our staff for details.

To ensure the safety of the blood donation process and available blood supply, volunteer blood donors must meet specific criteria.

Donors must be 17 years of age or older. There is no upper age limit. (Some states permit persons younger than 17 years to donate blood with parental consent.)

Donors must weigh 110 pounds (50 kg) or more.

Donors must be in general good health. Some conditions may disqualify donors either temporarily or permanently.

  • Some minor health problems, such as cold or flu, may temporarily disqualify donors.
  • Other significant medical events, such as major surgery or blood transfusion, exclude potential donors for up to one year
  • Some diseases, such as malaria, will exclude donors for up to three years.
  • More serious health issues, such as a history of heart disease, cancer, hepatitis, organ failure, HIV (exposure or high risk) or intravenous drug abuse, usually disqualify blood donation permanently.

To establish that a potential donor can give blood safely, a mini physical is given by a member of our staff prior to donation. This includes a general review of the donor's medical history, blood pressure check, pulse rate check, temperature check and hemoglobin level check. If you are taking any medications, especially prescription medications, you will be asked which ones and the reason(s) for which they are taken.

Travel History
Travel and/or a prolonged stay in some foreign countries can result in temporary or permanent disqualification. This is done according to American Association of Blood Bank (AAB) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines. The issues involved may be a potential exposure to malaria, mad cow disease and other conditions. Please check with our staff for more details.
Before and After Donating
It is recommended that prospective donors eat prior to giving blood. After donation, normal daily activities may resume. We do recommend that donors avoid lifting heavy weights or performing strenuous exercise for several hours.
Donation Frequency
You may donate blood platelets and plasma 24 times a year, up to 12 liters per year.
Standard Laboratory Tests
A set of standard tests are performed in the laboratory once blood is donated, including, but not limited to the following:

  • ABO typing (blood type)    
  • Rh typing (positive or negative Rh antigen)
  • Screening for any unexpected red blood cell antibodies that may cause problems in the recipient
  • Screening for current or past infections, including the following:
    • Hepatitis viruses B and C
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
    • Human T-lymphotrophic viruses (HTLV) I and II
    • Syphilis

Irradiation to blood cells is performed to disable any T-lymphocytes present in the donated blood. T-lymphocytes can cause a reaction when transfused, but can also cause graft-versus-host problems with repeated exposure to foreign cells.

Leukocyte reduced blood has been filtered to remove the white blood cells containing antibodies that can cause fevers in the recipient of the transfusion. These antibodies, with repeated transfusions, may also increase a recipient’s risk of reactions to subsequent transfusions.

What Are the Components of Blood?
While blood, or one of its components, may be transferred, each component serves many functions.

  • Red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues in the body and are commonly used in the treatment of anemia.
  • Platelets help the blood to clot and are used in the treatment of leukemia and other forms of cancer.
  • White blood cells help fight infection and aid in the immune process.
  • Plasma helps maintain blood pressure, provides proteins for blood clotting and balances the levels of sodium and potassium.
  • Cryoprecipitate antihaemophilic factor (AHF) is a portion of the plasma containing clotting factors that help control bleeding.

Albumin, immune globulins and clotting factor concentrates may also be separated and processed for transfusions.
Blood Donation Forms