Blood bank The Blood Bank, or Transfusion Medicine Service Lab at The George Washington University Hospital, provides advanced blood transfusion support and other blood tests for patients in the hospital and at outpatient clinics. The Blood Bank operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is supervised by specially trained medical technologists and physicians who have extensive experience in blood transfusion therapy. The lab uses advanced technical methods for compatibility testing, and the blood supply is provided only by donor centers that are fully licensed by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Autologous Blood Program

The blood supply in the United States is subjected to such extensive testing that it is currently regarded as the safest blood transfusion system in the world. Some patients may, however, wish to participate in an autologous blood program, in which they donate their own blood up to several weeks before a scheduled surgery. At the time of their surgical procedure, they can be transfused with their own blood, thus avoiding many, but not all, risks associated with transfusion.

The Transfusion Medicine Service Lab has made arrangements with the American Red Cross Blood Services in the region to enable our patients to participate in an autologous blood donation program. Patients who wish to have their own ("autologous") blood available for a scheduled surgery should discuss their interest with their physicians, who can counsel them as to whether they would be medically able to donate for themselves. Many of the physicians that practice at GWU Hospital and their office staff are familiar with the process of autologous donation and have the necessary American Red Cross Special Collection Order Forms required for autologous donation.

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If the patient and physician decide that autologous donation is appropriate and the physician and/or office staff is not familiar with the process, the physician’s office or patient should contact the Transfusion Service Lab at (202) 715-4398 to speak with the Manager or Chief of Transfusion Service to obtain information on how to arrange such donations. It is very important that the Transfusion Medicine Service be contacted before making any arrangements with any donor facility or hospital other than the American Red Cross to schedule donations.

Sometimes a patient cannot donate blood for himself/herself but would prefer to have a family member or a close friend donate blood specifically for his/her use. These requests require completion of the American Red Cross Special Collection Order Form and must be reviewed and approved by the Chief of the Transfusion Medicine Service. Patients should discuss this with their physician, who must authorize such donations, and then call the Transfusion Service Lab at (202) 715-4398 and speak to the Manager or Chief of the Transfusion Service for assistance.

It is very important to note that both the autologous and directed donation process require special coordination, including completed special collection order forms, blood collection appointments and additional time for blood processing, testing and shipping. At minimum, the American Red Cross requires seven business days to process autologous or directed units after blood collection. In addition, it is best to allow at least two to three weeks between autologous blood donation and surgery to allow a patient to regenerate his/her own red blood cells. Collected red blood cells can only be kept for a maximum of 42 days.

More Information

Transfusion Service Lab