Restrictions on Plasma From Female Donors May Need Revisiting

FRIDAY Feb. 12, 2010 -- The U.S. blood-banking industry discourages transfusing the blood product known as plasma from female donors because of a possible dangerous reaction in the recipients.

But now researchers have found that plasma that comes from females may actually have advantages.

Plasma is the fluid in blood in which blood cells are suspended. Researchers found that heart-surgery patients who received plasma from female donors did significantly better than those who got plasma from males. The plasma was donated before the restrictions went into place three years ago.

"Our findings raise the possibility of unanticipated effects of restricting female-donor plasma use," said Dr. Mark Stafford-Smith, a Duke University professor of anesthesiology and senior author of a study in the Feb. 11 issue of the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

Females can still donate whole blood. But plasma has been considered problematic since plasma donated by females was linked to a lung injury related to transfusion. The cause appears to be related to antibodies that are more common in women who have been pregnant.

"We were very surprised by the results, because when we began the study, we expected to see data that supported the idea that female-donor plasma would be riskier," Stafford-Smith said. "In fact, we found just the opposite. At first, we thought we might have switched our data somehow, but careful re-examination confirmed that recipients of male-donor plasma had worse outcomes."

Patients who got plasma from female donors suffered lung dysfunction 5.9 percent of the time, compared to 10.8 percent of those who got plasma from male donors. They were also less likely to die within 30 days of surgery or be hospitalized longer than 10 days; however, the two groups had similar long-term survival rates.

More information

There's more on giving blood at the American Red Cross.

Posted: February 2010


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