Technology & Science

Doctor-designed aid helps patients make blood donation choice

Considering storing your own blood in preparation for surgery?

For certain high-risk patients, there are many potential benefits to banking one's own blood, including reducing the risk of allergic reaction or infection with a disease.

But patients must also have the time and ability to donate sufficient blood in advance of any surgery. Blood may pass beyond its useful period if surgery is postponed, and in rare cases, clerical errors can lead to patients not receiving their own blood.

Now, Canadian doctors have designed an aid to help patients decide whether or not they want to bank their own blood, also called autologous blood donation, prior to surgery.

And according to a study in the April 17 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, while it doesn't appear to sway patients in one direction or another, it helps them make a more informed and more confident choice.

The decision aid a booklet and audiotape was designed by researchers in Toronto and Ottawa, and given to 59 patients referred for cardiovascular surgery to the Ottawa Heart Institute between Oct. 1, 1998 and Jan. 5, 1999.

The patients, all of whom were eligible to donate blood for their own procedures, were given a 15-item questionnaire. They were then sent home with the decision aid, and the questionnaire was repeated after they used the aid.

Knowledge about autologous blood donation increased from 67 per cent to 85 per cent. While 41 patients were initially in favour of donating their own blood, that rose to 45 after use of the decision aid.

Of the 14 patients who were initially uncertain about the procedure, nine eventually preferred it. The majority of the patients found the decision aid successful, and 95 per cent of patients said they would recommend it to others.