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N Engl J Med. 1995 Mar 16;332(11):719-24.

The cost effectiveness of preoperative autologous blood donations.

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  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center, CA 90073.



Since the recognition that human immunodeficiency virus is transmissible by blood transfusion there has been increasing public and professional support for autologous blood donations before elective surgery. Autologous blood donation is, however, a more expensive process than the donation of allogeneic blood by community volunteers. Furthermore, there have been recent improvements in the safety of the volunteer blood supply.


We used a decision-analysis model to assess the cost effectiveness of donating autologous blood for four surgical procedures. Cost data were collected from the observation of transfusion practice at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1992. Estimates of the risks of transfusion-associated diseases and the costs of treating them came from the medical literature. Cost effectiveness was expressed in dollars per quality-adjusted year of life saved. We performed sensitivity analyses of the variables in our model and examined the effect of strategies suggested to reduce costs.


Substituting autologous for allogeneic blood resulted in little expected health benefit (0.0002 to 0.00044 quality-adjusted year of life saved) at considerable additional cost ($68 to $4,783 per unit of blood). The additional cost of autologous blood was primarily a function of the discarding of units that were donated but not transfused and of a more labor-intensive donation process. The cost-effectiveness ratios ranged from $235,000 to over $23 million per quality-adjusted year of life saved.


Given the improved safety of allogeneic transfusions today, the increased protection afforded by donating autologous blood is limited and may not justify the increased cost.

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