Autologous Blood Donation

What is an autologous blood donation?

An autologous (say: aw-TOL-uh-gus) blood donation is blood that is taken from a patient so that if needed, it can be given back to him during or after surgery.

Benefits of your child donating blood for his own use

If your child donates blood for his own use, he will have the following benefits:

  • greatly reduced risk of getting infections that can be passed from one person to another in blood
  • preventing allergic reactions

Talk to your child's doctor about autologous blood donation

The decision about whether your child qualifies for an autologous blood donation will be based on all of these factors:

  • the type of surgery your child is having
  • the amount of blood usually needed for that surgery
  • your child’s haemoglobin level; haemoglobin is the part of the blood that carries oxygen
  • whether your child has a vein that is large enough to take blood from
  • whether your child has an obvious infection
  • your child’s feelings about giving blood

When your child can give blood

A registered nurse will collect your child’s blood. Blood collection should start no more than 35 days (5 weeks) before your child has surgery. Sometimes, more than one visit to the clinic is needed to collect enough blood. These appointments are most often booked 7 days apart. The last time your child donates blood must be no later than 7 days before surgery.

How long it takes to donate blood

Donating blood takes about 3 hours. The time can vary depending on these factors:

  • the time it takes to answer your questions and tell you and your child what you need to know
  • the time it takes to test the blood to check your child’s haemoglobin levels
  • the time it takes your child to recover after the donation

Your child's blood will be tested for infectious diseases

By law, all blood donations in Canada must be tested for infectious diseases. Infectious diseases can be passed from person to person. Blood donated either at the hospital or at Canadian Blood Services (CBS) will be tested for certain infectious diseases such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and hepatitis B and C. Abnormal test results will be reported to Public Health as required by provincial law.

Side effects that can occur after your child donates blood

After donating blood, your child may feel faint or dizzy. He may have bruising, bleeding, or redness and swelling where the needle was put in. Your child may be more tired for a short time after the donation. The amount of haemoglobin in your child’s blood will be lower after the donation.

Your child should take iron supplements to build up his haemoglobin before surgery. Iron supplements come in pill or liquid form. If your child’s haemoglobin is not replaced enough before surgery, the chance of needing a transfusion during or after surgery will increase.

What happens if your child does not donate enough blood

If your child needs more blood during surgery, the blood will come from the CBS. This blood, donated by volunteers, will be fully tested. Volunteers are people who donate their blood for free.

Where your child’s donated blood will be kept

Blood donations made at the hospital will be stored at the hospital. Donations made at the CBS Autologous Blood Donor Program will be transferred to the hospital and stored there until the blood is needed for your child’s surgery.

What happens if your child doesn’t need any or all of the blood donated

Blood donations expire 35 or 42 days (5 or 6 weeks) after they are collected, depending on the type of bag used. If your child does not need all of the blood, the unused blood will be thrown away when it expires.

Who to call if you need more information

If you have any questions or concerns, please call your doctor or the blood transfusion nurse at the hospital.

Key points

  • Autologous blood donation is blood taken from a patient for their own use. If needed, it can be given back to the patient during or after surgery.
  • If your child donates his blood, it can reduce the risk of infection from other blood and can reduce allergic reactions.
  • Talk to your child’s doctor about autologous blood donation.

Kathleen McShane, ART

Kim Mellor, RN, BScN

Wendy Lau, MD, FRCPC

Transfusion Advisory Group


Welcome to the Autologous Blood Donation Clinic at SickKids

Clinic Phone 416-813-6264

Your child's name:

Who can donate autologous blood at SickKids

Talk to your child’s doctor about autologous blood donation. The doctor will decide which program your child should be referred to: CBS Autologous Donor Program or the Autologous Blood Collection Clinic at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). The clinic at SickKids accepts only those children the CBS program cannot take. These children must be having surgery at the hospital.

The difference between CBS and SickKids clinics

The clinic at SickKids accepts patients who are too young or who do not meet the CBS’s weight requirements. In some cases, children who are turned down for medical reasons by the CBS will qualify for the SickKids program.

Some patients with certain types of medical conditions may not meet the requirements for either program.

Your child's appointments

Fill out the following information:

Date Registration and blood work Room M560 Blood donation Room M560

Registration, blood work, and blood donation will always be done on the same day.

Check in at the Autologous Blood Donor Clinic at the right time for your appointment. The Autologous Blood Donor Clinic is in room M560 on the main floor in the Roy C. Hill wing, beside the Orthopaedic Clinic waiting room. Your child will give blood in this clinic.

How to help your child get ready to give blood

If your child is giving blood:

  • Make sure your child has a good meal before and after giving blood.
  • Have your child drink lots of liquids for 24 hours before and 24 hours after giving blood.
  • 1 hour before your child gives blood, make sure she does not have any more hot drinks.
  • Bring your child’s hospital identification (ID) card and health card with you each time you come to the hospital.
  • Make sure your child wears a shirt with short sleeves or sleeves that roll easily up to the shoulder.

To make sure your child has enough iron in her blood:

  • Once you know your child is going to have surgery, ask your doctor about iron supplements or call the Blood Transfusion Nurse at 416-813-6264.
  • Give your child the iron supplement as directed before meals. Have your child take the iron with something that has vitamin C. For example, give your child orange or grapefruit juice, oranges, or vitamin C pills. Vitamin C helps your child’s body use the iron better.
  • Your child must keep taking the iron pills for 6 weeks after the operation.
  • Feed your child foods that have lots of iron in them.

For more information, please read Iron: Guidelines to Improve Your Child's Intake.

What to do after your child gives blood

After your child gives blood:

  • Leave the dressing on the place where the blood was taken, called the needle puncture site, for 4 hours. Your child may feel a little tender or bruised, but she will heal quickly. Make sure your child does not lift anything heavy with the arm the blood was taken from for 8 hours.
  • If the needle puncture site bleeds, place a tissue or piece of gauze over the site and press firmly with 2 fingers until the bleeding stops.
  • You or another adult should bring your child home.
  • Your child may walk or stand, but only for short periods for the next 24 hours.
  • Make sure your child avoids heavy activity such as sports for 24 hours, or longer if your child does not feel well. Your child should avoid activities such as biking or swimming. Your child could get hurt if she becomes dizzy or faints during these activities.
  • Make sure your child does not get overheated. For example, your child should avoid taking hot baths and sitting in the sun for 2 days after giving blood.

When to call your child’s doctor

Call your child’s doctor if any of the following things happen:

  • Your child has an upset stomach, trouble having a bowel movement (constipation), or watery bowel movements (diarrhea). The iron pills may cause these problems. A change in the colour of the bowel movement is harmless and normal.
  • The needle puncture site becomes red and more tender as time passes.
  • Dizziness does not go away after lying down.
  • You have any concerns.

When to call the blood transfusion nurse

Call the blood transfusion nurse at 416-813-6264 if any of the following things happen:

  • The date for your child’s surgery changes.
  • Your child gets any signs of a cold or flu before giving blood.
  • You have any further questions.