How do we manage iron deficiency after blood donation?

Br J Haematol. 2018 Jun;181(5):590-603. doi: 10.1111/bjh.15136. Epub 2018 May 16.


Blood donors and the RBCs and other components they willingly provide are essential in the delivery of healthcare in all parts of the world. Nearly 70% of donated blood comes from repeat or committed donors. The amount of iron removed in the 10 min or so it takes to withdraw a unit of blood (500 ml, plus 25 ml for testing) requires over 24 weeks to replace on a "standard" diet, i.e., without added iron in the form of supplements The cumulative effect of repeat blood donations without adequate iron replacement or a longer wait between donations results in iron deficiency (ID) in many donors, low haemoglobin deferral (~8% of donation attempts), and frank anaemia in some. Moreover, ID can be associated with side effects that can impact a blood donor's health, such as fatigue, cognitive changes and other neuromuscular symptoms. In an effort to better identify and prevent ID, blood collection agencies are recommending various strategies, including changes in the donation interval, donation frequency, testing of iron status and iron supplementation. In this review, we present the evidence basis for these strategies and suggest our own approaches to improving iron balance in blood donors.

Keywords: blood donor; ferritin; interdonation interval; iron deficiency; iron supplement.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Donors*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iron / therapeutic use*
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Male


  • Iron