BACKGROUND: Apheresis donation is considered safe, but the incidence of adverse effects has not been determined in a large multicenter series of donations with modern instruments.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: The Hemapheresis Committee of the American Association of Blood Banks devised a uniform questionnaire that asked about 32 specific adverse effects. Transient paresthesia and mild vasovagal events were excluded. A survey was conducted in 1995; 17 centers returned 19,611 responses concerning 250 to 2,000 consecutive apheresis donations per center.
RESULTS: Six hundred adverse effects were reported in 428 donations (2.18% of donations). Pain or hematoma at a venipuncture site was the most common response (1.15% of donations); only 203 donations had other (nonvenipuncture) adverse effects (1.04%). Total and nonvenipuncture rates were, respectively, 4.84 and 2.92 percent for 2,295 first donations and 1.78 and 0.77 percent for 17,303 repeat donations (p < 0.001). Rates of nonvenipuncture symptoms in first and repeat donations were, respectively, citrate-induced nausea and/or vomiting, 0.87 and 0.27 percent; tetany, 0.09 and 0.04 percent; pallor and/or diaphoresis, 1.87 and 0.32 percent; vasovagal nausea and/or vomiting, 0.87 and 0.13 percent; syncope and/or seizure, 0.39 and 0.04 percent; and chills and/or rigors, 0.31 and 0.01 percent. The overall rate of donor unconsciousness was 0.08 percent. Hemolysis was reported twice. Clotting or leakage occurred in 0.08 percent of donations, and inability to return blood occurred in 0.16 percent. No life-threatening adverse effects were reported. Procedure-specific nonvenipuncture rates were 1.05 percent of 17,584 platelet donations, 0.67 percent of 594 white cell donations, and 0.37 percent of 1,354 plasma donations. Center-specific rates varied from 0.32 to 6.81 percent of donations for total adverse effects and from 0.11 to 2.92 percent of donations for nonvenipuncture events.
CONCLUSION: Apheresis donation is a safe undertaking, suitable for voluntary blood donors, with a very low risk of serious adverse effects. The risk of unconsciousness is lower than that found in many studies of whole-blood donation.