Safety of blood donation by individuals over age 70 and their contribution to the blood supply in five developed countries: a BEST Collaborative group study.
BACKGROUND: Some countries impose an upper age limit on whole blood and double RBC donation while others do not. We evaluated the safety of blood donation in older individuals (≥71 years), and their contribution to the blood supply of five countries. STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Twelve blood center members of the Biomedical Excellence for Safer Transfusion (BEST) Collaborative from four countries with no upper age limit for whole blood and double RBC donation (Canada, New Zealand, England, and the United States) or an upper age limit of 80 (Australia) provided 2016 data on donors and donations, deferral rates, and vasovagal reactions by donor age and sex. Donors under age 24 were included in the number of total donors and donations, but not in deferral and reaction rate comparisons. RESULTS: Older donors accounted for 1.0% (New Zealand) to 4.3% (United States) of donors, and 1.5% (New Zealand) to 5.6% (United States) of donations; most were between ages 71 and 76. The deferral rate was higher in older compared to 24- to 70-year-old males, but very similar between older and younger females. In contrast, vasovagal reaction rates were either lower (male donors) or similar (female donor for reactions with loss of consciousness) in older compared to 24- to 70-year-old donors. CONCLUSIONS: Exclusion solely based on older age appears to be unwarranted based on safety concerns such as donor reactions. Healthy older individuals can continue to safely donate and make a significant contribution to the blood supply past arbitrary age limits.