How ferritin testing works
The test is performed using a small sample of blood taken with your donation. We’ll tell you if you have been tested. If your result is outside of our reference intervals (often called a normal range), we’ll send you your results in a mailed letter within two weeks of your sample being collected.
Occasionally we collect a sample for ferritin testing, but we aren’t able to test it. If this happens, we won’t notify you about it, but we will collect another sample at your next donation.
Lifeblood also tests your ferritin if there has been a significant drop in your haemoglobin level between donations or if your haemoglobin is at the lower end of the normal range. This is because low iron is the most common cause of a low haemoglobin.
If you donated whole blood on the day we tested your ferritin, the test was done on blood taken just before your donation. After you donate your body uses its iron stores to produce replacement haemoglobin. So, your actual ferritin level will generally be lower after your donation than shown in the test results.
What we’ll recommend based on your result
If your result is outside of our reference interval we’ll recommend you see your doctor, but you may not need to take a break from donating. Your result letter will let you know if you are eligible to continue donating (or to give another type of donation, like plasma) while you are seeing your doctor.
|Ferritin reference interval (ug/L)|
If your ferritin result is within the reference interval
We won’t send you a letter if your result is within our reference interval. So if you don’t receive a letter within two-three weeks of your ferritin sample being collected you can assume your result is fine. You’re eligible to continue with all donation types but remember to maintain a healthy, iron-enriched diet.
In most cases if you don’t receive a letter, it’s because your result is within the reference interval. Occasionally, we collect a sample for ferritin testing, but we aren’t able to test it. If this happens, we won’t notify you about it, but we will collect a sample at your next donation.
If you think you should have received a letter with your result and you haven’t got it within two weeks of your donation, call our contact centre on 13 14 95.
If you are a female donor aged 18-45, we still recommend you take a short course of iron after your blood donation to replace what you have donated.
If your ferritin result is low
This likely means you are iron deficient. Iron deficiency needs to be investigated and treated by your doctor, so that’s what we’ll recommend in your results letter.
There are many different causes such as diet and blood loss, but often it may be a combination of issues. It is important to have a low ferritin result investigated and treated by your doctor.
We’ll ask you to take a six-month break from donating blood. But, you’ll still be eligible to donate plasma or platelets while you have this investigated by your doctor as this has a very small red cell, and therefore iron, loss. That means you can give plasma (or platelets, if you’re eligible) during this time — as long as your haemoglobin is in the acceptable range when we check on the day of your donation.
If your ferritin result is high
We’ll recommend that you see your doctor to discuss this and have it investigated. The letter we send will include information on whether you are still eligible to donate while you have this investigated.
Ferritin levels may be raised for many reasons. Some are related to lifestyle, other times it may be due to a specific condition, and occasionally there may be a more serious underlying cause. If you are diagnosed with iron overload or haemochromatosis, you may be suitable for our therapeutic venesection (blood donation) program.
You advised me to see my doctor — do I have to see them to keep donating?
Your eligibility to donate will be based on the ferritin result that we sent you. It is extremely important that you see your doctor as advised by Lifeblood, even if we have indicated that you can still continue to donate.
You should inform us of the outcome of any investigations and/or treatment so that we can determine if you are eligible to continue donating. If you are eligible to donate, your haemoglobin will need to be in the acceptable range when we check it on the day of your donation.
Why can I donate plasma if my ferritin is low?
To be eligible to donate plasma your haemoglobin will still need to meet our acceptable plasma range to donate. Plasma donations only result in a small number of red blood cells being lost as most are returned to you during your donation. That means there’s only minimal amount of iron loss, so it’s not likely to contribute further to your iron deficiency. Even so, we still recommend you discuss your low ferritin result with your doctor and follow their advice.