Understanding Blood Donation Before Surgery

Technician taking blood donation from man’s arm.If you are scheduled for elective (nonemergency) surgery, you may have concerns about the possibility of blood transfusion during surgery. The goal is to maintain the body’s normal levels of blood. You and your healthcare provider can plan ahead to achieve this goal. Read on about the types of blood donations and, if needed, ways to build up your blood.

Autologous blood transfusion

Autologous blood is your own blood. It is the safest blood you can receive. For this type of transfusion, you donate and bank your own blood before surgery. Your banked blood is replaced during or after surgery as needed. You need to donate with enough time before surgery. The time depends on how much blood is needed. In some cases, blood lost during surgery can be saved and used during or after surgery. Donor blood may also be used if you were unable to donate enough blood before surgery.

Allogeneic blood transfusion

If you are not able to donate for yourself, you may receive blood donated by a blood bank donor. This is called allogeneic blood donation. Blood bank blood is screened for disease and considered safe. And it is ready to use right away. Relatives and friends with your blood type can also donate blood for your use. They are called designated (or directed) donors. Time is still needed to screen this blood for disease.


  • Blood donors are carefully screened for health and medical history.

  • All blood is tested for infections, such as hepatitis, syphilis, and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS).

  • Blood is classified into 4 groups: A, B, AB, and O, and into 2 Rh types: positive (+) and negative (–). This makes 8 possible blood types. Donor blood and patient blood must be compatible.