Is there a universal blood donor type?
Answer From Rajiv K. Pruthi, M.B.B.S.
For emergency transfusions, blood group type O negative blood is the variety of blood that has the lowest risk of causing serious reactions for most people who receive it. Because of this, it's sometimes called the universal blood donor type.
Blood group types are based on proteins called antigens that are present on red blood cells. There are major antigens and minor antigens coating the red blood cells. Based on the major antigens, blood groups may be classified as one of these four types:
- Type A
- Type B
- Type AB
- Type O
Blood is also classified by rhesus (Rh) factor. If your blood has the Rh factor, you're Rh positive. If your blood lacks the Rh factor, you're Rh negative.
Ideally, blood transfusions are done with donated blood that's an exact match for type and Rh factor. Even then, small samples of the recipient's and donor's blood are mixed to check compatibility in a process known as crossmatching.
In an emergency, type O negative red blood cells may be given to anyone — especially if the situation is life-threatening or the matching blood type is in short supply.
Rajiv K. Pruthi, M.B.B.S.
Dec. 02, 2020
From Mayo Clinic to your inbox
Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.
ErrorEmail field is required
ErrorInclude a valid email address
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for subscribing
Our Housecall e-newsletter will keep you up-to-date on the latest health information.
Sorry something went wrong with your subscription
Please, try again in a couple of minutes
See more Expert Answers
- Understanding your blood type. American Red Cross. https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/blood-types.html. Accessed Feb. 7, 2019.
- Uhl L. Pretransfusion testing for red blood cell transfusion. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Jan. 7, 2019.
- Roberts JR, et al, eds. Transfusion therapy: Blood and blood products. In: Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2019. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 7, 2019.
- Pruthi RK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 9, 2019.