Could lung function be modified by repeated blood donations?


      • Blood donation for many years
      • DLCO reduction
      • Blood donation frequency
      • Sympathetic nervous system



      Whole blood donation consists in the removal of 10% of total blood volume (500 ml). In this situation several compensatory mechanisms occur, involving sympathetic nervous system, renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system and the release of erythropoietin. Aim of this study is to evaluate whether a periodic stimulation of sympathetic nervous system, such as in blood donors in the period following the donation, may affect lung function.


      100 consecutive Caucasian male blood donors were compared with 50 healthy male subjects, recruited from the general population. Respiratory tests, including lung transfer factor (DLCO) and its components, alveolar-capillary membrane (Dm) and pulmonary capillary blood volume (Vc) were performed in each subject enrolled and in blood donors, before and after donation.


      At baseline DLCO (p < 0.0001), and Dm (p < 0.0001) were significantly reduced in the blood donors' group. A blood donation reduced DLCO (p < 0.01) due to decreased Vc (p < 0.05). There is a progressive reduction of DLCO related to years of blood donation, due to a greater impairment of the alveolar–capillary membrane diffusion. The correlation between reduction of DLCO, Dm and years of blood donation is statistically significant (p < 0.001).


      In blood donors DLCO reduction is related to the total number of years of donation. It may be indicated to evaluate DLCO in donors who made blood donations for many years, to possibly reduce donations frequency.
      Moreover particular attention should be paid to blood donors with a smoking habit in which frequent donations may increase the impairment of DLCO due to exposure to cigarette smoke.


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