How to do blood transfusion?

Surgeries and Procedures: Blood Transfusion

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A blood transfusion is when a donor’s blood is transferred to a patient. The blood is transferred into the patient’s body through a vein. A blood transfusion can make up for the loss of blood.

What Is Blood Made of?

Blood is a mixture of cells and liquid, and each part has a specific job:

  • Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s tissues and remove carbon dioxide. These cells are the ones that are most commonly transfused.
  • White blood cells help the body fight infection by making antibodies, (proteins that help destroy germs in the body).
  • Platelets, the smallest blood cells, help to clot the blood and control bleeding.
  • Plasma, the pale yellow liquid part of whole blood, is a mixture of water, proteins, electrolytes, carbohydrates, cholesterol, hormones, and vitamins.

Why Does a Person Need a Transfusion?

The main reasons why a child may need a blood transfusion are:

  • Loss of blood during surgery or from an injury or an illness.
  • Too little blood is being made. Some illnesses and treatments can prevent the bone marrow from making blood (for example, chemotherapy decreases production of new blood cells).
  • To prevent complications from a blood or bleeding disorder, such as sickle cell disease, thalassemia, or anemia caused by kidney disease, hemophilia, or von Willebrand disease.

Where Does the Blood for a Transfusion Comes From?

Because there’s no substitute for blood, the blood supply used for transfusion must be donated. The three types of blood donation are:

Autologous (ah-TOL-uh-gus) blood donation. This is when someone donates their own blood ahead of time for a planned surgery or other procedure. There is no age requirement, but in general, kids don’t donate their blood for their own use until they’re over age 12.

Directed donation. This is when a family member or friend with a compatible (good fit) blood type donates blood specifically for use by a patient in need of transfusion.

Volunteer donation. There’s no medical proof that blood from directed donors is any safer than blood from volunteer donors. So most patients receive blood donated through blood drives. These are often run by agencies like the American Red Cross. The minimum age for donating blood is 16 or 17 years old, depending on where a person lives.

How Should We Prepare for a Blood Transfusion?

If your child needs a blood transfusion, the doctor will describe the procedure. Parents should ask questions if the explanation isn’t clear. A parent or legal guardian will need to sign an informed consent form. This states that you understand the procedure and its risks, and give your permission for your child to have it.

If the situation is not a life-threatening emergency, two important tests will be done before the transfusion:

1. Blood typing. To confirm your child’s blood type, a nurse or technician will draw a sample from a vein in your child’s arm. (Except for the brief needle stick, this isn’t painful and only takes a few minutes.) This blood is immediately labeled with your child’s name, birth date, and medical record number, and an armband with matching information is made for your child to wear. The blood is then sent to the hospital’s blood bank lab, where technicians test it for blood type.

The 4 types of blood are:

  • type A
  • type B
  • type O
  • type AB

Each blood type also can be positive (+) or negative.

2. Cross-matching. After blood typing is complete, a compatible donor blood is chosen. As a final check, a blood bank technologist will mix a small sample of your child’s blood with a small sample of the donor blood to confirm they are compatible. Then the blood is labeled with your child’s name, birth date, and medical record number and taken to where your child will get the transfusion.

What Happens During a Blood Transfusion?

When a child gets a transfusion:

  • Blood is given through a needle placed in a vein.
  • The needle is attached to thin plastic tubing that connects to a plastic bag containing the blood.
  • The vital signs (temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate) are checked before, during, and after the transfusion.
  • A nurse watches for any signs of an allergic or other type of reaction, including rash, fever, headache, or swelling.

Transfusions usually take 1 to 4 hours, depending on how much blood is given and your child’s blood type. You can stay with your child, who will be awake. Your child can sit comfortably in a reclining chair or lie down on a bed, watch a movie, listen to music, or play quietly, and might be able to eat and drink, walk around a bit, and use the bathroom.

After the transfusion, if your child is going home, the plastic tube is removed from the vein and a bandage is placed over the area. The site may be slightly sore or tingly for a little while. Medicine may be given for any mild side effects, such as fever or headache.

Are There Any Risks to Blood Transfusions?

Some people worry about getting diseases from infected blood. But the United States has one of the safest blood supplies in the world. Many organizations, including community blood banks and the federal government, work hard to make sure that the blood supply is safe.

The risk of getting a disease like HIV or hepatitis through a transfusion is extremely low in the United States because of very thorough blood screening. Also, the needles and other equipment used are sterile, and are used only on one person and then thrown away in special containers.

If you have any questions about the risks of the transfusion, ask your child’s health care team.

What Are the Benefits of Blood Transfusions?

In kids with anemia or those getting chemotherapy, the greatest benefit of a transfusion is increased blood flow to nourish the organs and improve oxygen levels in the body. This can keep them from feeling too tired and help give them enough energy for the activities of daily life. Benefits like this often are felt fairly quickly.

For patients with bleeding problems, transfusions with platelets or plasma can help to control or prevent bleeding complications.

When your child is having any kind of procedure, it’s understandable to be a little uneasy. But it helps to know that blood transfusions are common procedures and complications are rare. Talk with your child’s doctor or health care team if you still have concerns.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD Date reviewed: January 2019

What Is a Blood Transfusion?

Almost five million Americans undergo this procedure every year.

A blood transfusion is a procedure during which donated blood is added to your own.

Blood transfusions boost blood levels that are low.

You may need one due to surgery, bleeding, injury, cancer, infection, a blood disorder, a liver problem, or another type of health concern.

Blood contains components such as red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, and platelets.

A blood transfusion may provide you with whole blood, or with the parts of blood that are most helpful to you.

Sometimes a blood transfusion is performed with your own blood that you’ve donated ahead of time.

The blood given in a transfusion must be compatible with your blood type. Your blood will be tested to determine if it’s A, B, AB, or O, and if it’s Rh positive or Rh negative.

Blood banks carefully screen donated blood to identify blood type.

They also test for infectious diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can be transmitted during a transfusion.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, almost five million Americans need a blood transfusion each year.

Blood Transfusion Procedure

Blood transfusions are typically performed in a hospital, doctor’s office, or other medical facility.

During a blood transfusion, an intravenous (IV) line is placed in a vein in your arm.

Blood or blood components that are stored in a plastic bag are delivered through the IV into your bloodstream.

The procedure typically takes one to four hours.

Tell your doctor or nurse immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms during your transfusion:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever or chills
  • Pain at the infusion site
  • Unusual itching
  • A sense of uneasiness

Before a Blood Transfusion

You won’t need to change your diet or limit any activities before receiving a blood transfusion.

Let your doctor know if you’ve had a transfusion in the past that caused an adverse reaction.

After a Blood Transfusion

After the procedure, you may develop bruising where the needle was inserted.

You may need more blood testing to check how your body is responding to the transfusion.

Blood Transfusion Risks

Blood transfusions are considered safe, but certain complications can happen during or after the procedure. These include:

  • Allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
  • Fever
  • Lung injury
  • Acute immune hemolytic reaction (occurs when the body suddenly attacks donor red blood cells)
  • Delayed hemolytic reaction (occurs when the body gradually attacks donor red blood cells)
  • Bloodborne infections such as HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C
  • Iron overload (too much iron in the blood)
  • Graft-versus-host disease (occurs when donor white blood cells attack the recipient’s bone marrow)

Donating Blood to a Specific Patient

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1. What is a directed donation?

A directed donation is the donation of blood or platelets that is designated for a specific patient. There is no scientific evidence that designated blood is safer than blood from other volunteer donors. In fact, directed donors must meet the same eligibility criteria as other volunteer donors.

Donors cannot be tested for blood type prior to donation. If someone donates to a specific patient and we determine the blood is not compatible with that patient’s blood type, the blood will be released for use by other Memorial Sloan Kettering patients.

If the directed donation is whole blood, generally only the red cells are reserved for the designated patient’s use. The other blood components are put into the general inventory of Memorial Hospital’s blood bank for use by other patients.

To prevent blood from being wasted, if the designated patient does not use the red cells within 25 days, the unit will be made available for use by other patients. Platelets that are not used by a designated patient within 5 days will also be made available for use by other patients.

It takes up to five business days to test and process blood donations and three business days to test and process platelets before the units can be released for use by patients. Therefore directed donations cannot be made for emergency transfusions.

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2. Who may give a directed donation?

Anyone who is healthy and meets the criteria for blood donation may designate their blood for a specific patient. There are certain exceptions, including:

  • If the patient will be receiving a bone marrow or stem cell transplant from a family member, no close blood relatives (grandparents, parents, children, siblings, aunts and uncles, first cousins, or nieces and nephews) should donate blood. Receiving transfusions from a close blood relative prior to the bone marrow or stem cell transplant can cause rejection of the transplant. Donations from close blood relatives may be made after the bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
  • A husband should not donate blood to his wife during childbearing years because it could increase the risk of complications in future pregnancies.

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3. Do patients get credit on their hospital bills for providing their own donors?

No. The charges related to transfusion on a hospital bill are for the collection, processing, and testing of the blood/platelets, regardless of who donated them.

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4. What if a patient doesn’t have anyone who can provide a directed donation?

Patients are not denied transfusions for any reason. Our blood bank relies on family members and friends of patients, as well as staff and people who live and work in the community, to maintain an adequate supply of blood products that support the transfusion needs of our patients.

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Getting a Blood Transfusion

A blood transfusion is given through tubing connected to a needle or fine tube (catheter) that’s in a vein. The amount and part of the blood transfused depends on what the patient needs.

First, blood tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) are done to find out if the patient’s symptoms are likely to be helped by a transfusion. A CBC measures the levels of components within the blood such as red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Tests of clotting (coagulation) may also be done if abnormal bleeding is a problem.

If a transfusion is needed, it must be prescribed by a health care provider. At that point, more blood tests must be done to find a donated blood component that closely matches the patient.

Blood types

Blood types are important when it comes to transfusions. If you get a transfusion that does not work with your blood type, your body’s immune system could fight the donated blood. This can cause a serious or even life-threatening transfusion reaction. (See “Possible risks of blood transfusion.”)

To be sure no mistakes are made, donated blood is carefully tested to find out what type it is. This is done when it’s taken from the donor and again once it’s received by the hospital lab. The blood bag is labeled with the type of blood it contains. When a person needs a blood transfusion, a blood sample is drawn from them and tested the same way.

All blood has the same components, but not all blood is the same. People have different blood types, which are based on substances called antigens on a person’s blood cells. The 2 most important antigens in blood typing are called A, B, O, and Rh.

  • Each person has an ABO blood type – either A, B, AB, or O – which means antigen A, antigen B, both antigens (type AB), or neither antigen (type O) is found on their blood cells.
  • Each person also is either Rh-positive or Rh-negative (you either have Rh or you don’t).

These 2 factors can be combined into 8 possible blood types:

A positive

B positive

AB positive

O positive

A negative

B negative

AB negative

O negative

ABO blood types

Two antigens on blood cells (A and B) determine a person’s ABO blood type (either A, B, AB, or O). In the United States, the most common blood type is O, followed closely by type A.

  • If you have type O blood, you can only get type O red blood cell transfusions. But you can give your red blood cells to people with type A, B, AB, or O blood, which is why you are sometimes called a universal donor. (Universal donor blood cells are typically only used in emergencies. For example, if a person is bleeding severely and nearing death, there may no time for testing. In everyday practice, people in the US are almost always given the exact same type of red blood cells that they have.)
  • If you have type A blood, you cannot get either type B or AB red blood cells.
  • If you have type B blood, you cannot get type A or AB red blood cells.
  • If you have type AB blood, you can get transfusions of O, A, B, or AB red blood cells.

Rh factor

Blood is either Rh-positive or Rh-negative, depending on whether the red blood cells have Rh antigens on their surface. A person who has type B, Rh-positive blood is called B positive, whereas a person with type B, Rh-negative blood is B negative.

If you have Rh-positive blood, you can get Rh-positive or Rh-negative red blood cell transfusions. But people with Rh-negative blood should only get Rh-negative red blood cells except in extreme emergencies. This is because an Rh-positive blood transfusion can cause a person with Rh negative blood to make antibodies against the Rh factor, causing a transfusion reaction (discussed below). If an Rh-negative woman makes antibodies like this, it can seriously harm any Rh-positive babies she may have in the future. Her anti-Rh antibodies can attack Rh-positive blood cells in the fetus.

Other antigens

There are other antigens on red blood cells that can lead to transfusion reactions. These are rare because people don’t make antibodies against them unless they have had transfusions before. Still, these antigens may become a factor in matching blood for a person who has had many transfusions in the past, as is the case for some people with cancer.

Plasma, platelets, cryo, and blood type

Blood types are also important for plasma transfusions, but the rules are different than the rules for red blood cells transfusions. For example, people with type AB blood are universal plasma donors, and they can only receive type AB plasma.

For platelet and cryoprecipitate transfusions, matching the blood type of the donor to the recipient is usually not critical, but labs still try to match them. This may become important for patients who have already had many transfusions or who have reacted to transfusions in the past.

Antibodies and cross-matching

After blood is typed, a test called an antibody screen is done to see if a patient’s plasma contains other antibodies besides those against A, B, and Rh. If there are extra antibodies, the cross-matching may take longer. This is because some units of donor blood may not fully match the recipient’s, even though they have the same ABO and Rh types.

Before a person can get a transfusion of red blood cells, another lab test called a cross-match must be done to make sure that the donor blood is compatible with the recipient’s.

A unit of the right ABO and Rh type blood is selected, and a drop of donor red cells from the unit is mixed with a drop of plasma from the patient. The mixture is watched to see if the patient’s plasma causes the donor blood cells to clump. This may happen if the patient has extra antibodies to a protein in the donor unit. If there are no problems (no clumping), a cross-match takes about 30 minutes.

A cross-match is usually not needed for a platelet or plasma transfusion unless the platelets look like they could contain some red blood cells.

The transfusion process

Most blood transfusions are given in the hospital or in outpatient clinics.

Red blood cell transfusions are usually started slowly while the patient is watched closely for the signs and symptoms of a transfusion reaction. The patient’s vital signs (such as temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure) are checked often. If there are no problems, the infusion rate will slowly be increased (so the blood goes in faster). Each unit of red blood cells is usually given over a couple of hours, and should be completed within 4 hours. Other blood products, like plasma and platelets, go in much faster.

A visiting nurse can give transfusions and monitor patients in their homes. Home transfusions follow the same safety standards as hospital transfusions. A health care provider must be sure that a patient’s health is stable for transfusion at home. Emergency medical care must be available close by in case it is needed. And the blood must be kept within a certain temperature range while being taken to the home.

Possible risks of blood transfusions

Although blood transfusions can be life-saving, they are not without risks. Infections were once the main risk, but they have become extremely rare with testing and donor screening. Transfusion reactions and other non-infectious problems are now more common than infections.

When you are getting a transfusion of any kind, it’s very important that you let your nurse know right away if you notice any changes in how you feel, such as itching, shivering, headache, chest or back pain, throat tightness, nausea, dizziness, trouble breathing, or other problems. You should report any changes that happen in the next few days, too.

Transfusion reactions

Blood transfusions sometimes cause transfusion reactions. There are several types of reactions and some are worse than others. Some reactions happen as soon as the transfusion starts, while others take several days or even longer to develop.

Many precautions are taken before a transfusion is started to keep reactions from happening. The blood type of the unit is checked many times, and the unit is carefully matched to be sure that it matches the blood type and Rh factor of the person who will get it. After that, both a nurse and blood bank lab technician look at the information about the patient and the information on the unit of blood (or blood component) before it’s released. The information is double-checked once more in the patient’s presence before the transfusion is started.

Allergic reaction

This is the most common reaction. It happens during the transfusion when the body reacts to plasma proteins or other substances in the donated blood. Usually the only symptoms are hives and itching, which can be treated with antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl). In rare cases these reactions can be more serious.

Febrile reaction

The person gets a sudden fever during or within 24 hours of the transfusion. Headache, nausea, chills, or a general feeling of discomfort may come with the fever. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help these symptoms.

These reactions are often the body’s response to white blood cells in the donated blood. They are more common in people who have had transfusions before and in women who have been pregnant several times. Other types of reaction can also cause fever, and further testing may be needed to be sure that the reaction is only febrile and not something more serious.

Patients who have had febrile reactions or who are at risk for them are usually given blood products that are leukoreduced. This means that the white blood cells have been removed by filters or other means. People with cancer often get leukoreduced blood products.

Transfusion-related acute lung injury

Transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) is a rare but very serious transfusion reaction. It can happen with any type of transfusion, but is much more likely in people who are already seriously ill. Transfusions that contain more plasma, such as fresh frozen plasma or platelets, seem more likely to result in TRALI. It often starts within 1 to 2 hours of starting the transfusion, but can happen anytime up to 6 hours after a transfusion. There’s also a delayed TRALI syndrome, which can begin up to 72 hours after the transfusion is given.

The main symptom of TRALI is trouble breathing, which can become life-threatening. If TRALI is suspected during a transfusion, the transfusion should be stopped right away.

Doctors now believe that several factors are involved in this illness. Many of the patients who get TRALI have had recent surgery, trauma, cancer treatment, transfusions, or have an active infection. Most of the time, TRALI goes away within 2 or 3 days if the person is helped with oxygen, fluids, and sometimes a breathing machine. Even with this kind of treatment, it’s deadly in 5% to 10% of cases. TRALI is more likely to be fatal if the patient was already very ill before the transfusion.

Delayed TRALI has been observed in people who are already critically ill or seriously injured. These patients have a higher risk of death. If a patient who has had TRALI in the past needs red blood cells, doctors may try to prevent it by removing most of the plasma from the red blood cells or by taking other measures. Researchers are working on other ways to reduce the risk of TRALI.

Acute immune hemolytic reaction

An acute hemolytic reaction is the most serious type of transfusion reaction, but careful blood handling has helped make it very rare. It happens when donor and patient blood types do not match. The patient’s antibodies attack the transfused red blood cells, causing them to break open (hemolyze) and release harmful substances into the bloodstream.

Patients may have chills, fever, chest and lower back pain, and nausea. The kidneys may be badly damaged, and dialysis may be needed. A hemolytic reaction can be deadly if the transfusion is not stopped as soon as the reaction starts.

Delayed hemolytic reaction

This type of reaction happens when the body slowly attacks antigens (other than ABO antigens) on the transfused blood cells. The blood cells are broken down days or weeks after the transfusion. There are usually no symptoms, but the transfused red blood cells are destroyed and the patient’s red blood cell count falls. In rare cases, the kidneys may be affected, and treatment may be needed.

People don’t usually have this type of reaction unless they have had many transfusions in the past. Those who do have this reaction need special blood tests before any more blood can be transfused. Units of blood that do not have the antigen that the body is attacking must be used.

Graft-versus-host disease

Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) can occur when a person with a very weak immune system gets a transfused blood product that contains white blood cells. The white cells in the transfusion attack the tissues of the patient who got the blood.

Within a month of the transfusion, the patient may have fever, liver problems, rash, and diarrhea.

To prevent white blood cells from causing GVHD, donated blood can be treated with radiation before transfusion. (Radiation stops white blood cells from working but does not affect red blood cells.) These are called irradiated blood products. They are often used for people with cancer.

Infections

Blood transfusions can transmit infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The chance of getting an infection from blood in the United States is extremely low, but the exact risk for each infection varies. Testing units of blood for infection and asking questions to learn about donor risks has made the blood supply very safe. Still, no test or set of questions is 100% accurate.

Bacterial contamination

Rarely, blood gets contaminated with tiny amounts of skin bacteria during donation. Platelets are the most likely blood component to have this problem because platelets must be stored at room temperature. Other components are refrigerated or frozen which curbs the growth of bacteria.

Blood banks now routinely test platelets and destroy units that are likely to cause harm. The tests are still being refined, but today fewer cases of illness are caused by platelets. Also, more hospitals use single donor platelets, which have a lower risk of bacterial contamination than pooled platelets.

Hepatitis B and C viruses

Several steps are routinely taken to reduce the risk of viral hepatitis from blood transfusion. People who are getting ready to donate blood are asked questions about hepatitis risk factors and symptoms of hepatitis. Donated blood is also tested for infection from hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, and other liver problems that could be signs of other types of hepatitis.

Viral hepatitis infection transmitted by blood transfusions is rare. The risk of getting hepatitis B from a blood transfusion in the US is about 1 in 800,00 to 1 in 1 million. The risk of getting hepatitis C is about 1 in 1 million.

Work continues to be done to reduce the risk of these infections even further.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Testing each unit of donated blood for HIV began in 1985, and all donated blood is now tested for HIV with 2 screening tests.

With improved testing for HIV, the number of transfusion-related AIDS cases continues to drop. The risk of HIV transmission from a transfusion is estimated to be about 1 in 1 million to 1 in 1.5 million. Along with testing, the risk is reduced by asking donors questions about HIV risk factors and symptoms.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a very common infection in the United States. Up to 3 in 4 people have this infection by the age of 40. Most people with CMV don’t know they have it because it rarely causes serious symptoms. Still, because it doesn’t cause problems for most people, donated blood is not always tested for CMV.

If you haven’t had CMV and your immune system is weakened, being exposed to CMV can make you very ill. CMV spreads from person to person through body fluids like blood, saliva, urine, semen, and breast milk. If you haven’t had CMV and you need a transfusion, your cancer team might choose to give you CMV-negative blood products, which come from CMV-negative donors. Or they might use blood products prepared with fewer white blood cells in which the virus lives. Either of these measures greatly reduces the risk of getting CMV if your immune system is weak.

Other infections

Along with the tests noted above, all blood for transfusion is tested for syphilis, as well as HTLV-I and HTLV-II (viruses linked to human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma). Since 2003, donated blood has been tested for the West Nile virus, too. In 2007, blood banks also began testing for Chagas disease (common in South and Central America).

Diseases caused by certain bacteria, viruses, and parasites, such as babesiosis, malaria, Lyme disease, and others can also be spread by blood product transfusions. But because potential donors are screened with questions about their health status and travel, such cases are very rare.

Other risks

Some look-back studies have suggested patients with certain cancers, like colorectal, prostate, lung (small cell or non-small cell), and breast cancer, had worse outcomes if transfusions were given before or during surgery and/or while getting chemotherapy. The reasons for this were not clear, though it’s possible that transfused blood might affect the immune system in ways that may cause problems later. But it’s also important to know that many of the studies were comparing groups that may have started with major differences between them. For instance, patients who need transfusions are often sicker to start with, and might have had worse outcomes based on that alone. Also, the transfused patients might have been treated in different ways during surgery and afterward.

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What is blood transfusion?

Blood is made up of fluid called plasma and different types of blood cells, including white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Plasma contains water, nutrients, waste products, and proteins, which include clotting factors that help your blood to clot. Plasma carries all of the blood cells and clotting factors through your body. White blood cells help your body fight infection and other diseases. Red blood cells carry oxygen through your body. Platelets help your blood clot.

A blood transfusion is the transfer of whole blood or any of its parts into your body. The blood may come from another person (blood donor) or from blood you have donated yourself before you have a procedure (autologous blood donation). Examples of parts of the blood that may be given are red blood cells, plasma, albumin (protein from plasma), platelets, and clotting factors.

You may need a blood transfusion if:

  • You have lost a lot of blood because of an injury or surgery
  • Your body is not able to make enough blood cells due to illness, disease or organ damage.
  • You have a blood disease that does not allow your body to make healthy blood cells.

How is blood transfusion done?

Before the procedure:

  • Your healthcare provider will ask you to sign a consent form for blood transfusion. The consent form will state the reason you are having the procedure, what happens during the procedure, and what you may expect afterward.
    • If there are religious or other reasons you do not want or cannot receive a blood transfusion, tell all providers right away.
    • If you or a family member are not able to give consent due to a life-threatening situation, your provider may give you the blood transfusion to save your life without your consent.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are allergic to any medicines.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are taking any medicines, including nonprescription drugs, herbal remedies, or illegal drugs (if any).

During the procedure:

  • You will have a small tube (IV catheter) inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. This will allow for blood to be given directly into your vein and to give you fluids.
  • Your provider will decide which part of the blood to give depending on the problem being treated:
    • Red blood cells: May be given if you have lost a lot of blood because of an injury or surgery or if you have severe anemia
    • Platelets or clotting factors: Are given to stop or prevent bleeding. If you have a condition that does not allow your blood to clot, such as hemophilia, you will be given the factor that your body needs to help blood clot.
    • Plasma: May be given if you have severe burns, liver disease, or a severe infection.
    • Whole blood: Is rarely given but may be used during or after heart surgery or if you have severe bleeding and need large amounts of blood in a short amount of time. It may also be used if the specific part of the blood you need is not available separately.
  • The IV will be left in the vein after the blood transfusion if there is a chance you will need more fluids, other medicines, or more blood transfusions. Other medicines will not be given through the blood transfusion IV when you are receiving the blood transfusion.
  • Your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature will be checked regularly.
  • A cardiac (heart) monitor may be used to keep track of your heart rate and rhythm.
  • Your blood oxygen level will be monitored by a sensor that is attached to your finger or earlobe.

After the procedure:

  • You may stay in the hospital for a few hours or several days to recover, depending on your condition.
  • While you are in the hospital:
    • You will be checked often by nursing staff.
    • Your blood oxygen level will be monitored by a sensor that is attached to your finger or earlobe.
    • A cardiac (heart) monitor may be used to keep track of your heart’s rate and rhythm.

What can I do to help?

  • You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:
    • Anxiety
    • Back pain
    • Blood in your urine
    • Chills
    • Dizziness or fainting
    • Flushing (redness, blotchiness, and hot feeling of skin)
  • Ask questions about any medicine, treatment, or information that you do not understand.

How long will I be in the hospital?

How long you stay in the hospital depends on many factors, including the reason why you needed the transfusion and how well you recover. Four to 6 days is the average amount of time in the hospital for patients with conditions that require transfusion.

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