Donating your own blood for later use is called autologous (aw-tahl-uh-gus) donation. Autologous donation is most often done in the weeks before you have a scheduled surgery that will likely require blood transfusion. Your own blood can then be used during or after the operation to replace any blood you may have lost.
This is generally thought to be the safest form of blood transfusion because you’re getting your own blood back. Still, it’s not totally without risk. There’s always the very small chance that bacterial contamination or clerical errors can happen.
People who aren’t able to donate blood for others may still be able to donate blood for themselves.
There is a processing fee for collecting, testing, storing, and delivering each unit of autologous blood. Be aware that your health insurance may not fully pay for this. There’s also a need to plan ahead so that you have enough time before surgery to have your blood cell counts go back to normal after your blood has been collected.
Donating blood for a family member, friend, or other specified patient is called directed donation. This can be done at any blood donation center, but you should call ahead to check requirements and schedule the donation. The donor must meet the same requirements as for regular blood donation, and the donor’s blood must match the blood type of the recipient.
Blood from directed donors has not been shown to be safer than blood from volunteer donors and, in some cases, may actually be more likely to cause problems. (For example, see “Graft-versus-host disease” under “Transfusion reactions” in the section, “Possible risks of blood transfusions.”)
The same types of testing are done on blood from directed donors. As with autologous donation, there is a processing fee for collecting, testing, and delivering each unit of directed donor blood. This fee might not be covered by health insurance. If the person the blood was intended for doesn't need it, some blood banks will use it for someone else. In others, it may be thrown out.