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Blood Transfusion

Definition

A blood transfusion is the delivery of blood products through a vein. The blood products may be red cells, white cells, platelets, clotting factors, plasma, or whole blood. The blood may come from an unrelated or related donor, or it may have been taken from the recipient and stored in advance.

Reasons for Procedure

A blood transfusion should help increase your level of blood cells or other specific blood products. It may be needed if you have:

  • Blood and fluid loss due to injury, surgery, or disease
  • Severe anemia
  • Bleeding disorders, such as von Willebrand's disease or hemophilia
  • Poor immune system
  • Leukemia
  • Diseases that result in destruction of blood cells or bone marrow
  • Side effects of certain medicines (eg, chemotherapy for cancer)

Possible Complications

Your doctor will review any possible complications with you. Complications from a blood transfusion are rare but may include:

  • Allergic reactions due to the mismatching of blood types can occur but are very rare.
  • Certain infections, such as hepatitis or HIV , can be passed on during blood transfusions, but this is very rare. Many steps and tests are done to thoroughly check donated blood for such infections before anyone is allowed to receive it.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

  • You will have a blood test to determine your specific blood type. The donor blood will be carefully matched to your blood type.
  • You will also be given a physical exam. Your vital signs (eg, temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure) will be recorded.
  • You may be given Tylenol and Benadryl before you receive a transfusion. These drugs will help reduce any minor allergic reactions.

Description of the Procedure

You will be asked to sit in a comfortable chair. A bag containing the blood product will be hung nearby. An IV needle will be placed into a vein in your hand or arm. The blood product will drip slowly from the bag through a tube into your vein. Once the bag of blood product is empty, the needle in your arm will be removed.

Common IV Placement

IV arm

© 2011 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Throughout the transfusion, your vital signs will be checked regularly. You will also be asked about pain, itching, or discomfort of any sort. Most reactions occur early in a blood transfusion, so you will be monitored more closely during the first 15 minutes.

How Long Will It Take?

About 2–4 hours

Will It Hurt?

The placement of the IV needle is mildly painful. Once the needle is in place, it should not cause pain.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

Immediately following your procedure, the staff may provide the following care:

  • Nurses will monitor you closely.
  • Your doctor may give you specific instructions based on your overall condition.
  • Your doctor may order blood tests to determine how effective the transfusion was.

At Home

When you return home after the transfusion, carefully follow your doctor’s advice regarding any activity restrictions or other instructions .

Call Your Doctor

After arriving home, contact your doctor immediately if you experience any symptoms of an allergic reaction or infection, such as:

  • New rash, hives , or itching
  • Swelling in legs, feet, hands, arms, or face
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • New onset of pain, especially in the back or chest
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing
  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge where the needle was inserted

In case of emergency, CALL 911 .

RESOURCES:

American Association of Blood Banks
http://www.aabb.org/

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Mt. Sinai Hospital Toronto
http://www.mtsinai.on.ca/

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/

References:

Conn's Current Therapy 2007 . WB Saunders Co; 2007.

Hladik et al. Transmission of human herpesvirus 8 by blood transfusion. N Engl J Med . 2006 Sep 28;355(13):1331-1338.

Merck Manual of Medical Information, Home Edition . 2nd ed. Merck and Co; 2004.

Posthouwer D. The natural history of childhood-acquired hepatitis C infection in patients with inherited bleeding disorders. Transfusion . 2006;46(8):1360-1366.



Last reviewed December 2010 by David N. Smith, MD


Last updated Updated: 12/1/2010

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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