Blood Transfusion

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Blood Transfusion

A blood transfusion involves getting blood from a donor to replace lost blood in the body.

There are some transfusions that focus on replacing a specific component of blood.  When someone is going into surgery, if there is a significant risk of bleeding, it may be asked if the persons wants to donate his own blood ahead of time just in case it is needed, but this is rare.

The infusions involves delivering blood to the body via a vein.

People may receive a blood transfusion for a number of reasons.  When a person receives a transfusion, it is rare that he/she will get whole blood.  In most cases, the patient will get the blood components that are needed more.  

The following reasons are why someone may receive a blood transfusion:

  • Blood loss: Injury and surgical procedures may result in blood loss and a transfusion will replace the lost blood.
  • Illness: Certain illnesses reduce how many platelets the body produces, so the doctor may order a plasma transfusion.
  • Infection: In some cases, a plasma transfusion is necessary for severe infection. The same is true for some cases of severe burns and liver failure.
  • Cancer: Cancer treatments may affect the levels of different blood components and a transfusion works to prevent this.
  • Blood disorders: If someone has a blood disorder that affects certain blood components, a transfusion works to replace those.

Blood transfusions are very common, but there are some risks that the patient should be aware of, including:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching and hives are the most common symptoms.
  • Acute immune hemolytic reaction: This is very rare and it involves the body attacking the transfused blood.
  • Fever: This is generally not serious, but must be monitored during the transfusion.
  • Lung injury: An effect called transfusion-related acute lung injury may occur and damage the lungs, making breathing difficult.
  • Blood borne infections: This is possible if blood is not properly screened and tested before transfusion.
  • Iron overload: This can lead to damage of the heart and liver.
  • Delayed hemolytic reaction: This is where the body attacks the transfused blood after the transfusion is already over.
  • Graft-versus-host disease: This occurs when donor cells are attack the cells in the body.

There is not much you need to do to prepare for a blood transfusion.

The doctor will order blood testing to determine the blood type before the procedure.  Additionally, the doctor will also ask if the blood donor had any blood borne infection in the past or have had blood transfusions in the past.

On an average, expect to receive a blood transfusion over the course of one to two hours.

However, in cases is significant acute bleeding, blood may be delivered much faster to keep up with the loss.  A nurse will check the patient frequently during the procedure to ensure that nothing is going wrong. They will check the blood pressure and ask if patient is experiencing any side effects, such as shortness of breath, chills, itching, fever, pain at the IV site or uneasiness.

Following the transfusion, there may be bruising at the IV site, but this is generally minimal.

Following the transfusion, the doctor will order blood testing to ensure that it worked and produced the desired results.  For example, if the red blood cells were low and this is why the patient needed a transfusion, the doctor will check the red blood cells to ensure that they are now at an acceptable level. If the levels are still low, the patient may need another blood transfusion.


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