Donating Blood - Should we or shouldn't we?

This question was recently featured in the latest issue of the Lupus Now magazine. While the magazine published an accompanying answer, given by Joan T. Merrill, M.D., head of the clinical pharmacology research program at OK Medical Research Foundation in OK City and also LFA's medical director, I found conflicting information online. Upon further research, and after consulting my rheumatologist, I found that there's still a bit of controversy surrounding the issue. Here is a summation of my findings:

Can Lupus patients donate blood?

1) Before donating, discuss with your doctor to determine whether or not you (and your blood makeup) are good candidates for blood donation.

2) If you are too anemic (have a low red blood cell count), don't donate.

3) Each blood donation bank has its own guidelines. American Red Cross used to disqualify Lupus patients from giving blood, but according to Dr. Merrill, this is no longer an issue. However, based upon my research (and that of my doctor's), it seems that the ARC will, indeed, accept blood from a Lupus patient, provided that one's condition is "inactive" and that a patient is "feeling well." The trick? What is meant by "inactive" is a bit vague and not well defined.

The good news, though, is that if you meet the criteria mentioned above, the ARC will allow you to donate even if you are on Plaquenil and/or corticosteroids (prednisone). Note, however, that certain immunosuppresive medications (e.g. methotrexate or cellcept) or biologic agents will disqualify you from donating.

4) NIH does not currently accept blood donations from Lupites, nor does the INOVA hospital system blood bank in my home state of Virginia. Without a full understanding of the causes of Lupus and the role of antibodies, NIH cannot ensure that there is absolutely no risk of transmission of harmful elements to those receiving blood. And INOVA simply has a policy that excludes all patients with an autoimmune disease, regardless of whether the condition is "active" or "inactive."

4) Since blood components are separated, the only components in a person's blood with Lupus that might be problematic are plasma and antibodies. Red blood cells and platelets should be safe to donate as long as the donor has sufficient amounts for themselves (see point #1 and 2). More good news: apparently, these parts are the ones most often needed by people who receive blood.

The bottom line? There really isn't one. If you're interested in donating, just be sure to check the specific inclusions or exclusions of the the blood bank in your area. If you are able to donate, don't forget to enjoy the juice box and cookies!

And many thanks to Dr. Neil Stahl for his help in uncovering the truth on this issue, and for providing much of the valuable information above. Other facts listed above courtesy of the Lupus Now article.


Anonymous said…
Another good thing for Lupus patients (or anyone else) to know is that if you have a surgery scheduled you may have the option of self-donation (Autologous donation). There are some positive benefits of it:
1)preserving blood supply for others who may need it, and 2)for your own peace of mind of knowing whose blood you are receiving. I personally had an experience when I became severely ill from Lupus and had to have an emergency transfusion in 1997. Even though I knew there were measures taken by the blood bank to ensure my safety, I still had some anxiety about it. Then in 2003 and 2004, I had hip replacement surgeries, and my doctor informed me that I could donate my own blood to be used if I needed it during the surgeries. I got through both surgeries without needing the blood I donated, but it was good to know it was there if I did. I will definitely do it again for future surgeries. If you want to self-donate, there are timelines and procedures you must follow. If you have any questions about Autologous donation, you can contact the American Red Cross.
Sara Gorman said…
What a great option! Thanks for sharing. I definitely remember contemplating the risks of the blood transfusions I had several years back in the hospital. At the actual time I received the transfusions - I was so sick I just wanted the doctors to do anything to make me better...but then the next day it hit me that, oh geez - I actually have someone else's blood running through my veins. It was the turning point for me during my hospital I got over the weirdness pretty quickly!
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