A blood transfusion is a procedure in which you receive blood or parts of blood through an IV (intravenous) line. The blood may be from a donor. Or you may receive your own blood that has been stored for you. There are several parts of blood that can be transfused into an adult. Red blood cells are the most common type of blood product transfusion.
There are many reasons you may need a transfusion. Your healthcare provider will explain the reasons for your transfusion.
There are several reasons why you may need a blood transfusion, such as:
Human blood is made of a fluid called plasma. Plasma carries red and white blood cells and platelets. Each part of blood has a special function. These parts can be separated from each other. Bone marrow, the soft, spongy material in the center of the bones, makes most of the body's blood cells. Here is a look at each part of the blood, and why it might be transfused:
Red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen from your lungs to other body organs. They also carry carbon dioxide back to the lungs to be breathed out (exhaled). The body needs a certain number of these cells to work well. Bleeding due to injury, surgery, or disease may cause a low red blood cell count. This is the most common type of transfusion.
White blood cells. These cells fight infections by destroying bacteria, viruses, and other germs. White blood cells are rarely transfused. They are often set aside as a short-term (temporary) treatment for people with a low white cell count and severe infection that has not responded to antibiotics.
Platelets. These little pieces of blood cells help blood to clot. Your body may not make enough platelets. This might be due to bone marrow disorders, increased destruction of platelets, or medicines such as chemotherapy. Platelets may be transfused before a procedure that may cause a person with a low platelet count to bleed.
Plasma. This fluid carries the blood cells all over the body. It contains proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Some of the proteins also help blood to clot. Plasma or fresh frozen plasma can be transfused in people who severely lack certain parts of the blood that help with clotting.
Most hospitals use blood from volunteer donors. These donors are not paid for giving blood or blood products. Each blood donor must answer medical history questions and have a limited physical exam before being accepted as a donor. Donated blood is carefully tested, which lowers the chances of transfusion-related infections. Donated blood is tested for:
Most transfusions are done without any problems. Mild side effects can often be treated with medicine if you need more transfusions. Mild side effects may include symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
Serious side effects are rare. They may include:
In addition to general volunteer blood donations, there are 2 other types of blood donation:
Directed blood donation. This is when friends or family donate blood for a certain person. This blood is set aside for that person’s use. This type of donation requires a prescription and must be scheduled in advance. Direct blood donations go through the same testing as other volunteer donations. If the person does not use this donated blood, it may be made available for someone else.
Donating blood for yourself (autologous donation). This is your blood that you donate for your own use. It is set aside and can be transfused back into your own body if needed for a later, planned surgery. This type of donation requires a prescription from your provider and is scheduled in advance. It does not go through the same testing as other blood donations. If you don’t use the blood, it is thrown away.
No special preparation is needed before a blood transfusion.
A blood transfusion may occur as part of your hospitalization. Or it may be done as an outpatient. This means you go home the same day.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
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