Iron depletion/deficiency in blood donors frequently results in deferrals for low hemoglobin, yet blood centers remain reluctant to dispense iron replacement therapy to donors.
Study Design and Methods
During a 39-month period, 1236 blood donors deferred for hemoglobin <12.5 g/dL and 400 non-deferred control donors underwent health history screening and laboratory testing (CBC, iron studies). Iron depletion and deficiency were defined as ferritin of 9–19 mcg/L and <9 mcg/L in females and 18–29 mcg/L and <18 mcg/L in males. Deferred donors and iron-deficient control donors were given a 60-pack of ferrous sulfate 325 mg tablets, and instructed to take one tablet daily. Another 60-pack was dispensed at all subsequent visits.
In the low hemoglobin group, 30% and 23% of females and 8% and 53% of males had iron depletion or deficiency, respectively, compared with 29% and 10% of females and 18% and 21% of males in the control group. Iron depleted/deficient donors taking iron showed normalization of iron-related laboratory parameters, even as they continued to donate. Compliance with oral iron was 68%. Adverse gastrointestinal effects occurred in 21% of donors. The study identified 13 donors with serious medical conditions, including eight with GI bleeding. No donors had malignancies or hemochromatosis.
Iron depletion or deficiency was found in 53% of female and 61% of male low hemoglobin donors, and in 39% of female and male control donors. Routine administration of iron replacement therapy is safe, effective, and prevents the development of iron depletion/deficiency in blood donors.