Autologous Blood Transfusion
Many major operations result in the need for a blood transfusion, either during or shortly following surgery. Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. A blood transfusion is usually given to increase the number of blood cells that are available to carry oxygen.
Young people who are healthy can tolerate a much lower red blood cell count than older individuals. If you have heart disease, you may not tolerate a low blood count very well.
In the past, blood transfusions were usually given by using blood that had been donated by someone else and stored in a blood bank. Recently, it has become much more common for those people undergoing elective surgery to store their own blood before surgery. This reduces the risk of having an allergic reaction when receiving a blood transfusion and reduces the risk of getting an infection, such as AIDS or Hepatitis, from the blood transfusion. Another benefit to storing your own blood is that it frees the increasingly small blood supply to be used in true emergencies; when those who don't have the luxury of planning ahead may need it desperately.
Storing your own blood is really no different from donating blood, you just get your blood back later when you need it. Blood can be stored in a refrigerated package for about 6 weeks. You will be scheduled to have your blood drawn sometime within 6 weeks of your planned surgery date. After giving a unit of blood, your body begins making new red blood cells, and quickly returns your blood volume to normal. Usually, one to three units of blood are drawn about a week apart to give your body a chance to build new blood cells and catch up. Your doctor may prescribe vitamins with iron to make sure your body has what it needs to build blood as fast as possible.