Transfusion medicine

Blood donor fears worth allaying: study

Interventions to measure and manage the fear of blood donation may be key to reducing adverse events such as vasovagal reactions (VVRs), improving the donor experience and retaining donors of whole blood and plasma, Australian research suggests.

A study at two Red Cross LifeBlood donor centres in NSW randomised 664 donors to either donation as usual, a pre-donation fear assessment only, the fear assessment plus an information brochure, or fear assessment with information brochure and a 1-minute conversation with a research assistant.

The study found about one third of people indicated some fear of having blood drawn from their arm during the donation. New donors were slightly more fearful than repeat donors.

“As hypothesised, pre-donation fear predicted stronger donor-reported VVRs (B = 0.038, p = .002), post-donation anxiety (B = 2.33, p < .0001), and venipuncture pain (B = 0.194, p <.0001),” the study said.

The study, published in Transfusion, found that asking about predonation fear did not lead to more post-donation fear, anxiety, venipuncture pain or self-reported VVRs.

Receipt of the information brochure or brochure plus tailored conversation were both associated with perceptions of greater positive support and less venipuncture pain.

“To our knowledge, this is a first psychological intervention to demonstrate a significant reduction in perceived pain among donors,” the researchers from Maquarie University, Sydney, said.

The importance of venipuncture pain was highlighted by its association with more self-reported VVRs (B = 0.06, p < .001), less likelihood of donor return (B = −0.228, p = .036), and reduced overall satisfaction with the donation experience (B = −0.12, p = .021).

“Many interventions are geared toward VVRs among donors, though a developing body of research suggests that venipuncture pain warrants further attention.”

“Overall, the current results indicate the importance of continued support for the need to devise better strategies to address fear among both whole-blood and plasma donors.”

“Future studies are needed to determine how this intervention can be effectively implemented into routine practice, noting the importance of positive communication and support in reducing donor pain.”

The researchers acknowledged that it might be difficult to incorporate the fear assessment and interventions given competing demands on staff and the pressure of minimising donor wait times.

“However, improved management of donor fear may be critically important to ensure the safety and well-being of our donors and the blood supply.”

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