Blood Transfusion

What is blood transfusion?

A blood transfusion is the transfer of blood or any of its parts from one person to another. If there are religious or other reasons you do not want or cannot get a blood transfusion, tell all providers right away.

Examples of parts of the blood that may be given are:

  • Red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrition to your body
  • Platelets, which help your blood clot
  • Plasma, which is the liquid that holds blood cells
  • Clotting factor, which is needed for blood to clot normally

Which part of the blood is given depends on the problem being treated.

You may need a blood transfusion if:

  • You 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 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) placed 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 your 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 a blood transfusion.
  • Your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature will be checked regularly.
  • A cardiac (heart) monitor will be used to keep track of your heart rate and rhythm.
  • Your blood oxygen level will be checked 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 will be used to keep track of your heartbeat.

What can I do to help?

  • You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:
    • Trouble breathing
    • Anxiety
    • Back pain
    • Blood in your urine
    • Chills
    • Dizziness
    • 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. The average amount of time to stay in the hospital for a blood transfusion is 5 days.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-11-07
Last reviewed: 2014-10-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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