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Blood donor screening: Medical history

Steven Kleinman, MD
Section Editor
Arthur J Silvergleid, MD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer S Tirnauer, MD


A major goal of transfusion medicine practice has been to reduce the risk of transfusion-transmitted infection to as low a level as possible [1]. This discussion will provide a general overview of the blood donor medical history as a means for screening donors in the United States for the possibility that their blood products might transmit such infections. Issues related to the actual procedures involved in blood donor screening and the laboratory testing of donated blood are discussed separately. (See "Blood donor screening: Procedures and processes to enhance safety for the blood recipient and the blood donor" and "Blood donor screening: Laboratory testing".)


Role of the medical history — Donor screening and laboratory testing of donated blood prior to transfusion are intended to ensure that recipients receive the safest possible blood products. Uniform donor medical history criteria ensure that similar donor screening occurs regardless of the collection facility. While laboratory testing is highly effective at removing units with the potential to transmit infection from the blood supply, the donor medical history makes additional contributions to reducing these and other complications of blood transfusion. (See "Blood donor screening: Laboratory testing".)

Examples include reducing the risk of the following:

Infection with an organism for which blood is not tested (eg, malaria)

Exposure to a medication with teratogenic potential (eg, isotretinoin)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 19, 2016.
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