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A blood transfusion is a procedure in which you receive blood or blood components intravenously. The blood may be from a donor, or, you may receive your own blood that has been stored for you. There are several components of the 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 health care 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. The components can be separated from each other. Bone marrow, the soft, spongy material in the center of the bones, produces most of the body's blood cells.
Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to other body organs and carry carbon dioxide back to the lungs to be exhaled. A certain number of these cells are needed for the body to function. Bleeding due to injury, surgery, or disease may cause a low red blood cell count.
White blood cells fight infections by destroying bacteria, viruses, and other germs. White blood cells are rarely transfused. They are usually reserved as a temporary measure for people who have a low white cell count and severe infection that has not responded to antibiotics.
Platelets cause blood to clot. The body may not be able to make enough platelets because of bone marrow disorders, increased destruction of platelets, or medications, such as chemotherapy. Platelets may be transfused before a procedure that may cause a person with a low platelet count to bleed.
Plasma carries the blood cells throughout the body. It contains proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Some of the proteins also help the blood to clot. Plasma or fresh frozen plasma can be transfused in people who have a severe deficiency of certain clotting components of the blood.
What are the risks of a blood transfusion?
The blood used at most hospitals is from volunteer donors. Donors are not paid for giving blood or blood products. Each blood donor must answer medical history questions and be given a limited physical exam before being accepted as a donor. The donated blood is carefully tested for:
These tests decrease the chances of transfusion-related infections.
A directed (or designated) blood donation is one in which donated blood is reserved for a specific person. However, it's recommended that families donate in a particular person's name versus directed donation. This is because unused directed blood is thrown away. If blood is donated in a person’s name, it must be donated within a month of the surgery. If not used, it will be released and used for someone else. An autologous donation is blood you give to be transfused back into your own body if needed for a later, planned surgery.
Most transfusions are done without any problems. Mild side effects may include symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as headache, fever, itching, increased breathing effort, or rash. This type of reaction can usually be treated with medication, should you require additional transfusions.
Serious side effects are rare and may include difficulty breathing, chest pain, and sudden drops in blood pressure. Transfusion reactions can occur even if the donated blood is the correct blood type. Transfusion with blood of the wrong type can be fatal. But this is unlikely to occur because medical personnel check blood multiple times.
No special preparation is required prior to a blood transfusion.
A blood transfusion may occur as part of your hospitalization, or it may be done as an outpatient.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.