Data reports negative blood donation reactions are rare

June 10, 2019

Negative reactions when giving blood are extremely rare and usually not complicated, according to data compiled in the AABB Donor Hemovigilance report for 2012-17.

In 2017, just 2% of blood donors reported having some sort of a reaction during or following donations, said the report by the sanctioning organization for blood centers. Of those reactions, more than half were “prefainting,” a term for dizziness or light-headedness.

Dr. Rachel Beddard, Chief Medical Officer at BioBridge Global, said the results of the survey were not surprising. From educating donors about preparation, to asking specific questions before donation, to training of staff, the process is designed to make the process as painless as possible.

The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, which is a subsidiary of BioBridge Global, has multiple standard operating procedures designed to educate staff on preventing and managing donor reactions. STBTC has a medical on-call phone numbers manned by nurses all the time, to answer questions from staff and donors, and the organization’s two physicians also are available.

“We work hard every day to make sure giving blood is a simple and painless process,” Beddard said. “The AABB report just confirms what we already knew, that reactions are uncommon.”

Other highlights of the AABB Donor Hemovigilance survey, which was released in April:

  • Four out of five reactions among young donors (age 16-22) are light-headedness or fainting, compared to 60% for donors age 23-69 and less than 40% for donors 70 or older
  • The rate of reactions in 2017, 20.8 per 1,000 donations, was the lowest in the six-year survey
  • The reaction rate for female donors was 26% in 2017, compared to 19% for male donors
  • More than three-quarters of the reactions were reported before the donor left the donation bed
  • Reaction rates were almost four times higher for first-time donors vs. repeat donors

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