From North Central Oklahoma Ostomy Outlook February 2014:

Can Ostomates Donate Blood? (Updated again)

by Bob Baumel, North Central OK Ostomy Association

Note: This is my third iteration of this article. Previous versions were published in our August 2006 and February 2009 newsletters.

Ostomy newsletters sometimes publish warnings that ostomates, especially ileostomates, shouldn’t donate blood. One such article cites a horror story (which may or may not be real) about an ileostomate who developed a kidney stone, allegedly due to the temporary dehydration caused by a blood donation.

I am one ileostomate who has always ignored those warnings. As of Feb 2014, I’ve donated the equivalent of over 110 units of blood, at least 80 of them since my permanent ileostomy surgery in 1992. And I’ve never suffered any ill effects from giving blood.

The question in the title of this article involves two issues: Is giving blood safe for the ostomate? And will the ostomate’s blood be accepted by the blood bank? On the first question, it should be understood that ostomates are different, and may have other health issues besides the ostomy, so it isn’t possible to make a blanket statement for all ostomates. Therefore, check with your doctor if you have any doubts about your ability to give blood.

It’s true that giving blood (at least, donating whole blood) can cause temporary mild dehydration (although not as severe as can occur from an ileostomy blockage or acute gastroenteritis episode). If you have a strong tendency to develop kidney stones, you may wish to avoid donating blood for this reason. However, in most cases, this mild dehydration is easily dealt with by being careful to drink a good amount of fluid before and after the blood donation.

You can also give blood and avoid dehydration totally by using one of the newer “apheresis” methods. These are procedures in which components of your blood are separated by specialized equipment while you donate, and some components are returned to your body. In addition, they pump enough saline into you to replace the blood volume removed, so you aren’t dehydrated at all afterward. I’ve donated a number of times using one of these methods (double red cell donation). However, there is no longer a collection center in my area that can take such donations, so I’m back to donating whole blood now.

Turning to the second question (whether the ostomate’s blood will be accepted), having an ostomy does not, by itself, disqualify you from giving blood, at least in the United States, although you may need to wait until a year after surgery. Rules vary in different countries, so readers outside the U.S. should check rules in their country. In the U.S., the rules are set by the Food and Drug Administration; for a good summary, see www.redcrossblood.org.

While having an ostomy doesn’t disqualify you from giving blood, you may be rejected due to low hemoglobin, or if you take certain medications or have certain other health issues. To probe some of those issues, you’ll need to answer a list of questions before donating (at many collection centers, you can answer those questions directly on a computer, although you can always have a person ask you the questions if you prefer).

If you’ve had recent surgery, especially if you received blood transfusions, you’ll probably need to wait a year before donating.

If you’ve had cancer, as long as it wasn’t a blood-related cancer, you can donate if it was treated successfully and the cancer hasn’t recurred for at least a year.

Chronic conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease also don’t disqualify you. The Red Cross site says: “Most chronic illnesses are acceptable as long as you feel well, the condition is under control, and you meet all other eligibility requirements.”


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This page last revised 2014-02-16

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