Goal 1: Promote Human Health

Iron Loss after Blood Donation and Its Effect on Donors’ Health

What is the effect of donation-induced iron deficiency on blood donor health?

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Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? : Compelling Question (CQ)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC :

Blood donation removes iron, and frequent blood donors commonly have low or absent iron stores. Donation frequency remains the strongest predictor of iron depletion among all donors, after controlling for body mass, race/ethnicity, and polymorphisms affecting iron metabolism. Less well documented is the effect of iron depletion on blood donor health and well-being. Iron deficiency may have a broad spectrum of physical and neurologic consequences, including impaired work capacity, altered cognitive function, pica and restless legs syndrome. The prevalence, duration, and severity of these conditions in blood donor populations are poorly elucidated. In contrast, modest iron deficits may be protective against cancer and cardiovascular disease. Some investigators have demonstrated the feasibility to connect donor information with clinical databases to study whether donation behavior and iron status have long-term consequences for donor health.

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC :

Studying the short-term clinical impact of donation-induced iron deficiency presents logistical and methodological challenges. Many outcomes of interest are not observable by blood center staff under routine procedures; further, such studies are subject to selection bias due to donor failure to return to donate following low hemoglobin deferral or adverse outcomes they associate with donation. However, given the size and demographic diversity of donor populations, even uncommon outcomes can be successfully studied under a multi-center approach. A prospective approach that doesn’t condition enrollment or completion of the study on return to donate, may avoid the methodological pitfalls. A wide array of clinical or neurological outcomes can feasibly be studied with sufficient blood centers and/or donor follow-up.

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea : Dana Devine PhD and Anne Eder MD PhD for the 2015 NHLBI State of the Science in Transfusion Medicine

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Idea No. 511