Blood donations and transfusions
Your orthopedic surgeon will be very careful during surgery to reduce the amount of blood you lose.
However, blood may continue to ooze from muscle and bone surfaces that were cut, even after the operation is over. Some patients may need a blood transfusion after hip replacement surgery.
If you need a blood transfusion, there are several sources of blood:
- You may receive donor blood from the general public, after it has been closely matched to yours.
- You may be able to receive blood from a relative or friend, if their blood matches yours. Your relatives and friends will have to donate their blood before surgery, so it can be checked and stored for you. This is known as direct blood donation.
- Another method is autologous blood donation. This is when you donate your own blood weeks before your surgery, and it is stored for you, in case you need a transfusion.
Blood from the public (volunteer blood donation)
The most common source of blood given during or after surgery is from volunteers from the general public
If you choose this method of receiving donated blood, there are no extra costs, further tests, or arrangements that you need to make.
Many communities have a blood bank at which any healthy person can donate their blood. This blood will be tested to see if it matches yours.
You may have read in the past about the danger of becoming infected with hepatitis, HIV, or other viruses after a blood transfusion. Blood transfusions can never be 100% safe. However, the current blood supply is thought to be safer now than it ever was before. Donated blood is tested for many different infections. Also, blood centers keep a list of unsafe donors, so the risk of infection is very low.
Donor answers a detailed list of questions about their health and risk factors for infection before they are allowed to donate. They answer very direct questions about risk factors for infections that can be passed on through their blood. This includes sexual practices or habits such as drug use and current and past travel history.
Directed donor blood (blood from a family member or friend)
This method involves getting a family member or friend donating blood before your surgery. This blood is then set aside and reserved for you, if you need blood transfusion after surgery.
Only family members or friends whose blood matches yours can be used. You will need to donate a unit of your own blood first. Then blood from these potential donors will be tested to see if they match yours.
Most of the time, you will need to arrange directed donor blood with your hospital or local blood bank.
Blood donated from these people must be collected at least a few days before it is needed. Their blood is carefully screened for infection.
It is important to note that there is no evidence that receiving blood from family members or friends is any safer than receiving blood from the general public. The blood will be discarded if not used by you after your procedure.
Autologous blood donation (blood from yourself)
Although the blood donated by the general public and used for most people is thought to be very safe, some people choose to use a method called autologous blood donation.
Autologous blood is blood donated by you, which you can later receive if you need a transfusion during or after surgery.
- You can have blood taken from 6 weeks to 5 days before your surgery.
- Your blood is stored and is good for a few months from the day it is collected.
- If your blood is not used during or after surgery, it will be thrown away.
If you wish to donate your own blood, you must make arrangements yourself. Your hospital may be set up to receive these donations and store the blood. Otherwise, your local blood bank may handle this process. Most of the time, you will need to pay for this process yourself.
There are problems that may happen with autologous blood donation also:
- Donating this blood can make you anemic, or have lower blood count, before your surgery. In fact, it is still possible you will need to receive a blood transfusion with blood donated by the general public after you receive all your own donated blood.
- Rarely, a mistake by the blood center or the hospital when handling your blood can end up with you receiving the wrong unit of blood. If this happens, you may have a reaction to the blood you receive.
Your doctor will likely ask you to take extra vitamins and minerals to help your body make new blood cells. These include:
- Iron tablets
- Folic acid
- Vitamin C
You may also be given a shot to boost your blood count prior to surgery.