Introduction The standard medical therapy for haemochromatosis is removal of iron by regular phlebotomy1. Current EASL guidelines recommend that blood taken from uncomplicated haemochromatosis patients should be made available through national blood transfusion services1. However, this practise varies widely across Europe and is often hindered by administrative difficulties. Here, we aim to describe a pilot facilitating the process of blood donation amongst haemochromatosis patients in the UK.
Methods A dedicated haemochromatosis clinic was established. At this clinic, patients with uncomplicated haemochromatosis interested in becoming blood donors were offered a simple information leaflet. One page provided information about eligibility; the second formed a self-referral application to be countersigned by the responsible physician. Upon receipt of referral, patients were contacted by members of the local Blood Service. Data on clinical characteristics including genotype, alcohol consumption, BMI, co-morbidities and previous blood donation was collected.
Results Patients attending (n = 101) since the introduction of this service (Aug 2011) are included. The median age was 57 (22–82) and the majority 70 (69%) were male. Most (89%) were C282Y homozygotes; the remainder were H63D/C282Y compound heterozygotes. The majority (91%) had uncomplicated haemochromatosis; however many were ineligible for blood donation by virtue of age (20%), co-morbidity (17%), or induction therapy (15%). Prior to the introduction of this service, there were 3 regular blood donors. Since the introduction of this service, of those potentially eligible (n = 40) 23 (58%) showed interest in blood donation, 20 (50%) applied, 17 (43%) are eligible and have registered. In total, there are now 13 regular blood donors, including 10 new who have donated 27 pints of blood (median 2[1–6]).
Conclusion There is an interest and willingness to donate blood through NHS Blood and Transplant amongst uncomplicated haemochromatosis patients undergoing therapeutic phlebotomy. Since the introduction of this facilitation process, we have significantly increased the number of regular blood donors amongst this cohort. If this process was undertaken nationally or more widely across Europe, this could have a significant impact on the availability of this precious resource.
Disclosure of Interest None Declared.
European Association for the Study of the Liver. EASL Clinical Practice Guidelines for HFE Hemochromatosis. J Hepatol (2010) 53:3–22