In certain cases, giving blood for your own use is an alternative to receiving blood from the general blood supply. This is called autologous (which means “from the same individual”) donation: you donate of your own blood for your own future re-use.

Going under the knife? If your doctor or surgeon foresees the need for donor blood, you could consider autologous donation. Pregnant women may also donate autologously provided there are no complications during the pregnancy.

You can become an autologous donor if:

  • Your surgeon anticipates the need for donor blood and agrees to the procedure
  • Your health is on par with our physician’s requirements
  • You are between the age of 12 and 70 and weigh a minimum of 50kg
  • You meet most of the health requirements for normal donation
  • Your blood pressure and pulse rate are normal
  • Your haemoglobin level is 11g or more

You won’t be able to become an autologous donor in the case of:

  • Any heart conditions or a history of aneurysms or strokes
  • Respiratory disorders such as asthma or emphysema
  • Unstable insulin-dependent diabetes
  • Convulsions after infancy
  • Certain cancers, bleeding disorders and major blood group diseases
  • Dental work three days or less before donation
  • Recent antibiotic treatment or infection, unless approved after a thorough medical assessment

There are exceptions where individuals with these conditions may be able to donate under the supervision of WCBS staff and a physician. Please contact our Specialised Donation Unit for more information.

The biggest benefit of autologous donation is that you’ll receive your own blood, and that it will be available if needed. There is also no risk of adverse reaction as a result of incompatibility or picking up possible donor infections.

On the downside, the donation process is rather time consuming and more costly due to the special collection, storage and testing requirements. The blood collected will also expire if your surgery is postponed. In addition, if you start bleeding unexpectedly during surgery, your surgeon might use general blood supply to supplement your own supply.

  • Autologous donation is more expensive than receiving regular transfusions. Although there is no charge for the blood itself, donors are charged for the procedure, testing, cross-matching and delivery.
  • Unused autologous donations are not automatically absorbed into the general reserve. That is, unless the donor is a regular donor, has donated up to 12 months before, and fulfils our donation criteria.
  • Even if a doctor’s recommendation is obtained, we still reserve the right to not accept donors who we believe are unfit for donation.

Good to go?

Contact the Specialised Donation Department at the Western Cape Blood Service on 021 507 6320 for an appointment. As a designated donor, you’ll be required to complete our standard donor questionnaire. Recipients will also have to supply a donation request form completed by their doctor.