Low-Dose Iron Supplements Speed Donated Blood Recovery Time

Pharmacists may want to recommend low-dose iron supplements to patients who donate blood, as the supplements have been found to speed hemoglobin recovery time after blood donation.

Pharmacists may want to recommend low-dose iron supplements to patients who donate blood, as the supplements have been found to speed hemoglobin recovery time after blood donation.

Post-donation hemoglobin decrease and iron depletion have become significant issues in blood donor safety.

Although blood donation is permitted every 8 weeks in the United States, hemoglobin recovery is frequently delayed, and some donors become anemic as a result. It is even estimated that up to 35% of blood donors become iron depleted from regular blood donation.

To determine the effect of oral iron supplementation on hemoglobin recovery time, as well as the recovery of iron stores in iron-depleted (low-ferritin ≤26 ng/mL) and iron-replete (higher-ferritin >26 ng/mL) blood donors, a multifaceted team of researchers conducted a clinical trial of blood donors stratified by ferritin level, sex, and age in 4 regional blood centers in the United States in 2012.

The 215 eligible participants had a history of one or more successful whole blood donations, but had not donated whole blood or red blood cells in the previous 4 months.

After donating a 500-mL unit of whole blood at the start of the study, the participants either received a daily oral tablet of ferrous gluconate 325 mg (37.5 mg of elemental iron) or took no iron supplementation for 24 weeks, at which the researchers measured time to recovery of 80% of the post-donation decrease in hemoglobin and recovery of iron stores to baseline.

Compared to the control group, those who received the iron supplement had shortened time to hemoglobin recovery—a finding seen in both the low-ferritin and the higher-ferritin groups.

The median time to recovery to baseline ferritin levels was 21 days in the low-ferritin group taking iron and 107 days in the higher-ferritin group taking iron, compared with more than 168 days in the control group not taking iron. In fact, two-thirds of the control group did not recover their iron stores at 168 days.

In an interview with Pharmacy Times, study author Joseph E. Kiss, MD, of the Institute for Transfusion Medicine in Pittsburgh, stressed that blood donors should be made more aware of the iron depletion issue and discuss it with their health care providers.

This study was published in JAMA.