VIDEO: Blood Donor Retention After Adverse Events

Donating blood is critical to ensuring a sufficient blood supply. Due to the consistent demand for blood, it is important to understand how to increase donations and retain donors.

Regular blood donors may be discouraged from continuing to donate if they experience minor adverse reactions, which sometimes occur even though blood donation is safe and effective.

A recent study published in the journal Transfusion evaluated the effect of donor psychological views on blood donation, as well as the effect of vasovagal or needle reactions, on the risk of blood donors not returning.

Vasovagal reactions are reflexes of the involuntary nervous system characterized by arteriolar dilation. They are associated with a number of symptoms, including sweating, nausea, vomiting, weakness, hypotension, bradycardia, and syncope.

The study used blood bank records to track donations and adverse reactions among more than 12,000 experienced whole blood donors. Donor views on blood donation were also captured through a questionnaire sent to all registered donors in the Netherlands.

This questionnaire assessed attitude, subjective norm, self-efficacy, and moral norm. These are the four main factors that contribute to the intention to donate blood, according to the Theory of Planned Behavior.

The researchers found that vasovagal reactions are associated with a higher likelihood of stopping donations, even after adjusting for the Theory of Planned Behavior variables.

This study also found that female donors had more vasovagal reactions than males, although male donors were more likely to stop giving blood after a vasovagal reaction.

Dr. Wim de Kort, the Director of Donor Services at Sanquin Blood Bank in the Netherlands, was the senior author of the study. He is also the project leader of the European Union funded DOMAINE project evaluating donor management.

Here is what Dr. de Kort had to say about the study’s findings:

“We studied the effect of a vasovagal reaction or a needle reaction on the risk of stopping as a blood donor and wondered if stopping risk does solely relate to the adverse reaction itself, or if psychological, or, maybe other variables do play a role as well?

“Coping differences and possibly different reporting tendencies might play a role. We suggest that, for donor retention purposes, prevention and coping techniques should take sex differences into account.”

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Barbara Masser, from the University of Queensland School of Psychology, described the challenges of retaining experienced donors and the effect of adverse reactions on donor retention.

Experienced donors are not only more cost-effective than newly recruited donors, but these individuals are also less likely to experience any vasovagal reactions or adverse events.

To increase the retention of these donors, Dr. Masser suggested three main strategies.

First, the social skills and support of the blood collection agency staff must be improved.

Second, donor education must be increased.

And third, when adverse events occur, blood collection agency staff must intervene.

We’ll be back on September 30th with another edition of Transfusion News. In the meantime, you can always keep up to date with all of the latest news by visiting Thanks for joining us.


1.    Veldhuizen I, Atsma F, van Dongen A, de Kort W: Adverse reactions, psychological factors, and their effect on donor retention in men and women. Transfusion 2012;52:1871-1879.

2.  Masser B: Experienced donors, adverse events, and retention. Transfusion 2012;52:1844-1848.


  1. Ong, Chiew-Ping says

    Glad to see that attention and awareness to good donor management has been raised in European countries . It is truely important to retain the regular blood donors. Not only it is more economic but also ensure safer blood collection.

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