Date Published: 
Monday, 23 June, 2014

Iron deficiency is particularly prevalent in female, premenopausal, frequent blood donors, new data reveal

The prevalence of iron deficiency in female, but not male, blood donors increases with donation frequency and decreases with age, new data indicate. The authors suggest that these results should inform blood organisations seeking to alleviate the burden of iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency is an important consequence of blood donation. This cross sectional study of Australian blood donors investigated the problem in the blood donor population to enable identification of potential solutions to donor iron deficiency.

Blood samples were collected and haematological data analysed in 3049 donors; 1873 had donated whole blood, 242 had made apheresis donations (where blood is separated into one constituent and the remainder returned to the donor), and 530 had not donated (“new” donors) in the previous 24 months.

The prevalence of iron deficiency in female whole-blood donors increased with donation frequency, from 17.3 to 29.7% (1 vs ≥6 donations, respectively), and decreased with age. No such changes were seen in male whole-blood donors. Prevalence of iron deficiency in apheresis donors also did not change with donation frequency. Furthermore, the risk of iron deficiency could not be predicted by donor anaemia status or demographic and donation data.

The authors state that this information should inform Australian and international blood organisations that are devising strategies to mitigate the impacts of donation-related iron loss. Their suggestions include reductions in permissible donation frequency in women and replacement of losses with iron therapy. They also suggest that the high burden of iron deficiency among premenopausal, female, whole-blood donors, especially those who make frequent donations, indicates that strategies should be targeted to this group.

The full article is available online ahead of print in Transfusion. For information on iron deficiency, please click here.