Teen Blood Donors Face More Complications
Fainting, Bruising Among Risks; Researchers Say Negative Experiences May Deter Future Donations
May 20, 2008 -- Teens who donate blood may be
more likely to develop complications such as fainting and bruising, according
to a new study.
The results show 16- and 17-year-old blood donors were more than three times
as likely to suffer from donation-related complications compared with donors
aged 20 or over.
Researchers say the increasing demand for blood and limited supply of
eligible donors have led blood centers to recruit more blood donors by
advocating states to accept blood donated by 16- and 17-year-old high school
students. For example, between 1996 and 2005, the American Red Cross reports
blood donors in this age group accounted for 14.5% of annual donations while
donations from older adults declined.
Most states allow 17-year-olds to donate without parental consent, and 22
states and U.S. territories allow 16-year-olds to donate with parental
But researcher Anne F. Eder, MD, PhD, of the American Red Cross and
colleagues say these findings suggest that "the increasing dependence on
recruiting and retaining young blood donors requires a committed approach to
donor safety, especially at high school blood drives."
(How do you feel about your
teen donating blood? Talk with other parents on WebMD's
Parenting: Preteens and Teenagers message board.)
Young Blood Donor Risks
In the study, published in The Journal of the American Medical
Association, researchers compared data on blood donation-related
complications from nine American Red Cross regions in the U.S. that routinely
collect blood from teens, primarily through high school blood drives in 2006.
The overall complication rate was 3.8% of all collections.
When comparing rates of complications across age groups, the results showed
that 16- and 17-year-old blood donors had much higher rates of complications,
such as lightheadedness without loss of consciousness, fainting with loss of
consciousness, bruising, and other problems, after donation.
Researchers found complications occurred after 10.7% of donations by 16- and
17-year-old blood donors, compared with 8.3% among 18- and 19-year-old blood
donors and 2.8% among blood donors aged 20 and older.
Younger blood donors were also more likely to experience loss of
consciousness and other major complications than older donors. Although
injuries related to fainting were uncommon (5.9 events per 10,000 blood
donations), they were 2.5 times more likely among 16- and 17-year-old blood
donors compared to 18- and 19-year-old donors and 14 times more likely than in
donors 20 years and over.
Researchers found young blood donors who experienced even a minor
complication (such as sweating, becoming pale, or feeling lightheaded without
loss of consciousness) were 60% less likely to return to donate within a year
than those who did not experience donation-related problems.
"Consequently, any negative experience diminishes the likelihood of
return blood donation, and increases the possibility that a short-term yield in
donations incurs the ultimate expense of deterring future blood donation by
young donors," the researchers write. "These findings are particularly
pertinent at a time when blood centers are becoming increasingly reliant on
young donors to maintain an adequate blood supply."