Blood Transfusion

  • Medical Author:
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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Donor blood

All donor blood is tested for safety making its risks very small, but no screening program is perfect and risks, such as contraction of the hepatitis virus or other infectious disease still exist.

Volunteer blood: blood collected from the community blood supply (blood banks). This has the advantage of being readily available, and can be life-saving when your own blood is not available. The disadvantage is that there is a risk of disease transmission, such as hepatitis, and allergic reactions.

Designated donor blood: blood is collected from the donors you select. You can select people with your own blood type who you feel are safe donors. Like volunteer blood, there is still a risk of disease transmission, such as hepatitis and AIDS, and allergic reactions. This process usually requires several days for advanced donation. It may not necessarily be safer than volunteer donor blood.

What is a blood bank?

Blood banks collect, test, and store blood. They carefully screen all donated blood for possible infectious agents, such as viruses, that could make you sick.

Blood bank staff also screen each blood donation to find out whether it's type A, B, AB, or O and whether it's Rh-positive or Rh-negative. Getting a blood type that doesn't work with your own blood type will make you very sick. That's why blood banks are very careful when they test the blood.

To prepare blood for a transfusion, some blood banks remove white blood cells. This process is called white cell or leukocyte (LU-ko-site) reduction. Although rare, some people are allergic to white blood cells in donated blood. Removing these cells makes allergic reactions less likely.

Not all transfusions use blood donated from a stranger. If you're going to have surgery, you may need a blood transfusion because of blood loss during the operation. If it's surgery that you're able to schedule months in advance, your doctor may ask whether you would like to use your own blood, rather than donated blood.

If you choose to use your own blood, you will need to have blood drawn one or more times prior to the surgery. A blood bank will store your blood for your use.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/11/2015

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