- Take the Blood Disorders Quiz
- Patient Comments: Blood Transfusion - Experience
- Patient Comments: Blood Transfusion - Complications
- Blood transfusion facts
- What is a blood transfusion?
- Autologous blood (using your own blood)
- Donor blood
- What is a blood bank?
- What are the different types of blood?
- What are the types of blood transfusions?
- Who needs a blood transfusion?
- What to expect before a blood transfusion
- What to expect during a blood transfusion
- What to expect after a blood transfusion
- What are the risks and complications of a blood transfusion?
- Are there alternatives to blood transfusions?
Blood transfusion facts
- Blood transfusions can be a life saving measure.
- Volunteer donor blood usually is readily available, and when properly tested has a low incidence of adverse events.
- The likelihood of contracting infections from a blood transfusion is very low (varies with the infectious agent from 1 in 350,000 to 1 in 1 million), but can occur.
- Transfusion of your own blood (autologous) is the safest method but requires planning ahead and not all patients are eligible. It is usually only an option for elective surgery.
- Directed donor blood allows the patient to receive blood from known donors.
- Blood conserving techniques are an important aspect of limiting transfusion requirements.
- Blood banks are responsible for collecting, testing and storing blood.
- People with Type O, negative blood are considered universal donors as it is safe to transfuse to nearly everyone.
- Most of the time a transfusion is not a "whole blood" transfusion, but rather certain blood products, with red blood cells being the most common.
What is a blood transfusion?
A blood transfusion is the transfer of blood or blood products from one person (donor) into another person's bloodstream (recipient). This is usually done as a lifesaving maneuver to replace blood cells or blood products lost through severe bleeding, during surgery when blood loss occurs or to increase the blood count in an anemic patient. The following material is provided to all patients and/or their family members regarding blood transfusions and the use of blood products. Although in most situations the likelihood of a blood transfusion associated with surgery is uncommon, at times patients may require blood products. You are encouraged to discuss your particular need for transfusion as well as the risks of transfusion with your doctor.
Your options may be limited by time and health factors, so it is important to begin carrying out your decision as soon as possible. For example, if friends or family members are donating blood for a patient (directed donors), their blood should be drawn several days prior to the anticipated need to allow adequate time for testing and labeling. The exact protocols are hospital and donor site specific.
The safest blood product is your own, so if a transfusion is likely, this is your lowest risk choice. Unfortunately this option is usually only practical when preparing for elective surgery. In most other instances the patient cannot donate their own blood due to the acute nature of the need for blood. Although you have the right to refuse a blood transfusion, this decision may have life-threatening consequences. If you are a parent deciding for your child, you as the parent or guardian must understand that in a life-threatening situation your doctors will act in your child's best interest to insure your child's health and wellbeing in accordance with standards of medical care regardless of religious beliefs. Please carefully review this material and decide with your doctor which option(s) you prefer, understanding that your doctor will always act in the best interest of his or her patient.
To assure a safe transfusion make sure your healthcare provider who starts the transfusion verifies your name and matches it to the blood that is going to be transfused. Besides your name, a second personal identifier usually used is your birthday. This assures the blood is given to the correct patient.
Blood can be provided from two sources: autologous blood (using your own blood) or donor blood (using someone else's blood).
Autologous blood (using your own blood)
Pre-operative donation: donating your own blood before surgery. The blood bank draws your blood and stores it until you need it during or after surgery. This option is only for non-emergency (elective) surgery. It has the advantage of eliminating or minimizing the need for someone else's blood during and after surgery. The disadvantage is that it requires advanced planning which may delay surgery. Some medical conditions may prevent the pre-operative donation of blood products.
Intra-operative autologous transfusion: recycling your blood during surgery. Blood lost during surgery is filtered, and put back into your body during surgery. This can be done in emergency and elective surgeries. It has the advantage of eliminating or minimizing the need for someone else's blood during surgery. Large amounts of blood can be recycled. This process cannot be used if cancer or infection is present.
Post-operative autologous transfusion: recycling your blood after surgery. Blood lost after surgery is collected, filtered and returned to your body. This can be done in emergency and elective surgeries. It has the advantage of eliminating or minimizing the need for someone else's blood during surgery. This process can't be used in patients where cancer or infection is present.
Hemodilution: donating your own blood during surgery. Immediately before surgery, some of your blood is taken and replaced with IV fluids. After surgery, your blood is filtered and returned to you. This is done only for elective surgeries. This process dilutes your own blood so you lose less concentrated blood during surgery. It has the advantage of eliminating or minimizing the need for someone else's blood during surgery. The disadvantage of this process is that only a limited amount of blood can be removed, and certain medical conditions may prevent the use of this technique.
Apheresis: donating your own platelets and plasma. Before surgery, your platelets and plasma, which help stop bleeding, are withdrawn, filtered and returned to you when you need it later. This can be done only for elective surgeries. This process may eliminate the need for donor platelets and plasma, especially in high blood-loss procedures. The disadvantage of this process is that some medical conditions may prevent apheresis, and in actual practice it has limited applications.