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FAQ

 

Blood donation – an act of solidarity – a philanthropic gesture

It is thanks to the 13,000 men and women who each year voluntarily donate blood, that people in need of blood products are well taken care of in Luxembourg. Their sense of responsibility allows the Blood Transfusion Centre of the Luxembourg Red Cross to meet the blood product requirements of the national hospitals and clinics. To ensure that today’s solidarity remains alive to meet future needs and in order to avoid a blood shortage, there is a constant need to recruit new blood donors – in particular young people.

The following information is addressed to those who are interested in donating blood and wish to know more about it. Here you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions. It might also be that you are simply in search of more information on the topic of blood donation. Whatever the reason for your visit to this page, we hope that we have provided you with the information that you’re looking for. For any remaining questions, please don’t  hesitate to contact us.

 

Blood

What is there to know about blood ?

Does artificial blood exist ?

What is hemoglobin ?

 

Blood donation

Why are blood donations essential ?

How much blood is donated ?

500 ml ? Isn’t that too much ?

How much time does a blood donation take ?

Does it always take the same amount of time ?

How often can I donate my blood ?

Can I donate blood for myself ?

 

The donor

Who can donate blood ?

Is a blood donation painful ?

How much time does the body need to recuperate from donating blood ?

Do blood donations affect blood pressure ?

What precautions should I take before donating blood ?

Are there specific rules for athletes ?

Are there specific rules for drivers ?

Does blood donation damage veins ?

Can blood donation be harmful to my health ?

Is it possible to have a bad reaction to blood donation ?

 

Blood products

What happens to the blood I donate ?

How are blood products prepared ?

Will I have access to the results of the laboratory analysis ?

What are blood products ? Isn’t blood directly transfused to the recipient ?

How long can blood be stored for ?

Are blood products safe ? Is there a risk of infection ?

When is blood used ? Who is donated blood given to?

 

Blood transfusions in Luxembourg

Why must a medical questionnaire be filled out every time ?

Can I be assured that my results will remain confidential ?

The Red Cross claims that their blood donations are very safe. Why is this so important ?

Are there enough blood donations in Luxembourg ? Why is this so important ?

Are there ever blood shortages ?

Are rare blood types more valuable ?

Does Luxembourg sell blood outside the country ?

If blood is donated for free; why isn’t it given to hospitals for free ?

Why doesn’t the Red Cross pay for blood donation to help combat a shortage of supply ?

When and where can blood be donated in Luxembourg ?

 

What is there to know about blood ?

Blood consits of 4 main elements, each with a crucial role :

  • Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissue and remove carbon dioxide from the body. A small drop of blood contains 4.5 – 5 million red blood cells.
  • White blood cells make up a large part of the immune system. They defend the body against bacteria, viruses, parasites and shield it from infectious diseases. 1 cubic millimetre of blood contains between 4,000 and 10,000 white blood cells.
  • Platelets stop  wounds from bleeding. They prevent blood loss from veins, arteries, and capillaries.
  • Plasma is the liquid part of the blood which keeps the red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in suspension. Plasma also contains vital substances such as salts, hormones, and glucose. In addition, plasma contains proteins such as albumin, which control blood pressure, as well as coagulation factors, which can stop bleeding.

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Does artificial blood exist ?

Blood is a liquid organ which such a complex composition  that it is impossible to reproduce synthetically . Therefore, blood donations are crucial for treating the sick and wounded who need additional blood. However, we do have the knowledge and technology to artificially produce certain constituents of plasma, one of the components of blood, for example as coagulation factors which are essential for the treatment of hemophiliacs.

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What is hemoglobin ?

Hemoglobin is the substance that gives red blood cells their colour. O2 from the lungs is attached to hemoglobin and is transported to all the cells in the body.  In exchange, CO2 accumulating in the cells is removed and transported back to the lungs to be eliminated. The average hemoglobin level in men is higher than in women.To donate blood, men must have a hemoglobin level of 130g/l, whereas women need 120g/l.

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Why are blood donations essential ?

Blood is a substance essential for life; it can only be produced by an organism. It is irreplacable as artificial blood does not exist. Each blood component has a vital role; for example transport of oxygen and nutrients, immune system defence, coagulation phenomena, circulation and body temperature control.

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How much blood is donated ?

Each donor donates 500 ml (half a litre) of blood in a standard bag, which contains a set amount of stabilizing liquid. This is the reason why everyone donates the same amount of blood. The plastic bag and needle kit used for a blood donation are single-use and will be destroyed after use. Any risk of contamination by this material is therefore automatically ruled out.

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500 ml ? Isn’t that too much ?

An average adult has between 4 and 6 litres of blood, depending on their weight. A man weighing 80 kilos has about 6 litres of blood. A woman of 60 kilos has about 4 litres. A donation of 500 millilitres is not a problem for a person weighing 50 kg. After the blood is donated, the body will eventually replace the volume taken.

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How much time does a blood donation take ?

The donation itself takes arount 10 minutes; not including the preparation time and resting time and a snack after the donation. A new donor should allow approimately an hour and a half for an appointment. For subsequent donations, one hour should be sufficient.

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Does it always take the same amount of time?

Yes, more or less. If many donors are present, you may have to wait for your turn. We appreciate your patience and understanding in reaction to this.

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How often can I donate blood ?

Assuming good health, women can donate blood every 4 months, men every 3 months. The intervals between blood donations are set by law and we must abide by this. The minimal interval between two plasma donations is 4 weeks for both men and women.

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Can I donate blood for myself ?

It is possible to self donate blood, for example to prepare for a planned surgery. The patient’s health state should allow 2-3 donations to be made in a relatively short period of time, as blood can only be stored for a limited amount of time (42 days). Please ask your physician about a blood donation for your own personal use. The physician will decide if an auto-transfusion is an option for you and will inform you of the procedure. Auto-transfusions only amount to approx. 5-10% of all blood donations. Therefore your anonymous donations remains essential.

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Who can donate blood ?

Every healthy person between the age of 18 and 70 can donate blood. A new donor must be under the age of 60. Before each donation, a potential donor is assessed to ensure that they are healthy enough to donate. The person’s weight must be at least 50kg and arterial pressure, pulse and the hemoglobin level must be within normal limits. Each donor is asked to fill out a questionnaire about their health status.

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Is blood donation painful ?

Blood donation is essentially painless, however it requires a needle prick. The process of withdrawing the blood is  painless.

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How much time does the human body need to recuperate from donating blood ?

The white blood cells( important for microbe defence) and the liquid lost by donation will be regenerated within a day. After 6 to 8 weeks, your body will have replaced all the blood you donated. You will not feel any fatigue during this period, but we advise against any high performance sport (e.g marathons).

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Does blood donation affect blood pressure ?

Blood (or arterial) pressure slightly decreases  after a donation, but rapidly increases again after. Blood donations are therefore not a treatment for hypertension.

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What precautions should I take before donating blood ?

You should not donate blood on an empty stomach. Before checking in, eat a light meal with mineral water or fruit juice. Please avoid the sauna and any physical exercise on the day of your blood donating.

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Are there specific rules for athletes ?

Avoid scuba  diving and any intensive sport for the 2 days after donating blood and adjust the length and intensity of any workout, recognizing that your physical abilities may be reduced. Generally speaking, allow your body to rest before and after donating.

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Are there specific rules for driving ?

You only need to rest for a little while before driving – as long as you feel fine.

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Does blood donation damage veins ?

No. If you donate 3 or 4 times a year, there is no risk to your veins.

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Can donating blood be harmful to my health ?

No! We will make sure that before you donate it is safe for you to be a donor. Under these conditions, blood donations do not present any risk to your health. For donors, there is no risk of contamination (i.e. AIDS /HIV or hepatitis) as we use a single-use sterile kit with a needle connected to a plastic bag for each donation and this is discarded after use.

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Is it possible to have a bad reaction to a blood donation ?

Blood donations are well-tolerated by almost all donors. In less than 1% of cases, the donor may have a reaction. Usually this is a temporary feeling of being unwell and fades after only a few minutes. In some very rare cases, a more serious reaction may occur during or after the donation, such as blood pressure dropping. After the donation it is therefore essential for the donor to have a little snack in the cafeteria, where we will supervise you.

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What happens to the blood I donate ?

Each blood donation is first examined by our laboratory. A hemogram is conductedto check the components of the blood are checked from a hematologic viewpoint. In addition, various tests are carried out to detect an infectious or antibodies such as jaundice (Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, transaminases), AIDS (HIV) and syphilis (TPHA), and others (such as HTLV, a-HBc). For safety reasons, these methods of investigation are constantly verified and adjusted to satisfy ever-changing requirements. Blood which produces abnormal results will be destroyed.

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How are blood products prepared ?

The preparation of blood products is a fairly complex, multi-step pharmaceutical process :

  1. Filtration: elements which are not needed or are dangerous to transfuse to a recipient are extracted
  2. Centrifugation: separation of red blood cells, plasma, and platelets
  3. Transfer of the blood products to the laboratory that finishes the preparations
  4. Labelling of the blood bags containing the various blood products
  5. Storage whilst waiting for transfer to a hospital

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Will I have access to the results of the laboratory analysis ?

Every blood donation undergoes over 30 tests. If the results of the analyses are normal, donors are not notified. However, if the laboratory tests yield abnormal results, the blood donor is immediately notified by phone or mail. If the result of the HIV test is positive, a second laboratory carries out a second test to confirm the result. As soon as a positive test is confirmed, a doctor calls the donor to inform them.

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What are blood products ? Isn’t blood directly transfused to the recipient ?

Blood consists of blood cells (45%) and plasma (55%). For a transfusion, whole blood is no longer used. Blood cells are split into red blood cell concentrate (erythrocytes) and blood platelets (thrombocytes) are isolated. Regarding plasma, products such as albumin, coagulation factors, or immunoglobulin are obtained. Transfusion patients receive only the blood components they really need. Each blood donation is used efficiently as several recipients can benefit from it.

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How long can blood be stored for?

Storage time varies with the type of blood product: blood platelets (thrombocyte concentrates) can only be preserved for 5 days; however, red blood cells (erythrocyte concentrates) can be preserved for up to 42 days. Plasma products, such as albumin, may be stored for up to 2 years. These different shelf lives are the main reason why blood components are separated. The use of combined bags during the donation aids the processing of the products.

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Are blood products safe ? Is there a risk of infection ?

The Blood Transfusion Centre maintains a high standard of safety for blood donors and recipients. The in-depth questioning of potential donors, regular awareness-raising, the use of sterile single-use of all materials used, analysis of each blood sample, and implementation of various procedures to eliminate possible pathogenic agents during preparation, all form a chain of safety measures. The aim is to reduce the risk of infection by concentrates of erythrocytes and thrombocytes to an absolute minimum.

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When is blood used ? Who is given donated blood ?

Donated blood is used in a variety of situations. People who have suffered massive blood loss,due to an accident or surgery, for example, require blood transfusions. For instance, open-heart surgery usually requires the products from 4 to 6 blood donations. Blood products are also required to treat illnesses which affect the blood composition, such as the absence of coagulating factors, or for the treatment of leukemia. Additionally, numerous surgeries, organ transplantations, and malignant tumour treatments are only possible thanks to blood transfusions.

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Why must a medical questionnaire be filled out every time ?

Thanks to the questionnaire and the staff interview, we can determine whether a person is healthy enough to be a blood donor. This is in the best interest of both the donor and the recipient. Accurate, precise and honest answers contribute to everyone’s safety.

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Can I rest assured that my results will remain confidential ?

Information provided by the donor in the medical questionnaire or during the medical interview is treated in a strictly confidential manner. The Blood Transfusion Centre will never disclose the donor’s identity, information about this, or examination results without the donor’s consent.

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The Red Cross maintains that their blood donations are very safe. Why is this so important ?

Numerous comparisons have proven that non-payment (the donor giving up on any kind of remuneration) is a large part of safety. Our volunteer donors comprise of a meticulous selection of new donors as well as loyal donors who have been donating for years. National and international legislation also provide rigorous framework. Finally in 1999, the Blood Transfusion Centre became one of the first centres in  Luxembourg  to have a quality control system certified by ISO 9002.

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Are there enough blood donations in Luxembourg ? Why is this so important ?

The Grand Duchy is one of the few self-sufficient countries when it comes to blood transfusion. This self-sufficiency plays an important role in the national security. In case of an acute blood shortage, however, blood products can be imported from neighbouring countries. Unfortunately, over recent years the number of donors has decreased. This is partly due to the medical requirements for the acceptance of donors growing increasingly restrictive. If our country wants to ensure a sufficient supply of blood products in the future, the Blood Transfusion Service must constantly recruit new donors.

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Are there ever blood shortages ?

The number of donors often decreases for example during the holidays. This can lead to supply problems, even with the existence of a safety stock. The most critical period is between August 1st and 15th September. Shortages can be avoided if every healthy person between 18 and 70 years old agrees to donate blood regularly.

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Are rare blood types more valuable ?

The distribution of blood types in the population of Luxembourg is roughly as follows :

  Rhesus positive Rhesus négative
O 35% 6%
A 37% 6%
B 9% 2%
AB 4% 1%

 

The proportion of needs of the requirements of erythrocyte concentrates is identical. In certain rare cases, for example in the case of a blood transfusion after exsanguination in newborn infants, certain blood groups are more in demand. It is therefore important that those with a rare blood group donate. In emergencies (for example after a serious accident), the blood type 0 negative (“0-“) is used as a “universal donor” and therefore a crucial blood group to collect. But in general, donations of all blood groups are precious and save lives.

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Does Luxembourg sell blood outside the country ?

No! In Luxembourg, we barely cover the hospitals’ requirements for transfusions to sick and injured people; there is no excess. Furthermore, the law on blood transfusion (of March 15, 1979) forbids the trade or profit of blood.

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If blood is donated for free, why isn’t it given to the hospitals for free ?

The Blood Transfusion Centre does not aim to make a profit. The price of the blood products covers the costs of the various necessary steps: donation, preparation, testing, storage, and distribution. All of this is expensive. The various activities of the Transfusion Centre and the numerous actions related to donation require qualified staff and efficient equipment. The Blood Transfusion Centre guarantees the safety and quality of the blood products in Luxembourg, meeting the highest international standards.

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Why doesn’t the Red Cross pay for blood donation to face the shortage ?

Blood donation is an act of solidarity from which no one should gain financial profit. Supported by the Organisation Mondiale de la Santé (OMS), the Red Cross’ Blood Transfusion Centre follows strict ethical norms, which include the principle of non-payment. Nobody, even those dealing with poverty, should feel obliged to donate their blood. Similarly, every patient has the right to receive blood or blood products independent of their financial situation.

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When and where can blood be donated in Luxembourg ?

You can find information on when and where to donate blood via phone at 27 55-4000. You can also come to the Blood Transfusion Centre in Luxembourg City to sign up as a new donor.

The opening hours and the address of the Blood Transfusion Centre can be found on this webpage.

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