Blood transfusion is a procedure in which the blood or blood components from one person, called a donor, is given to another, called a recipient. Depending on the reason for the transfusion, the person may be given whole blood or a blood component, such as:
red blood cells
blood clotting factors
fresh frozen plasma
white blood cells
This blood can be obtained from many sources. Volunteer donors are carefully screened and interviewed before they are allowed to donate blood. Friends or family members can do a "directed donation." But, findings have shown that these donations are not any safer than those given by random donors. An autologous donation means that a person has donated his or her own blood to be stored for future use. This may be done prior to an elective surgery.
Who is a candidate for the procedure?
People receive blood transfusions for many reasons. Blood transfusions can:
increase the blood's ability to carry oxygen
restore the body's blood volume
correct clotting problems
A person may need a blood transfusion if he or she has:
lost blood and fluid volume as a result of an injury, surgery, or burns
anemia, or a low red blood cell count
a bleeding disorder, such as hemophilia A or hemophilia B
an immunodeficiency disorder, a condition that weakens the body's ability to fight off infection
How is the procedure performed?
Most transfusions are given in a hospital. Sometimes they are given in outpatient settings such as an ambulatory care clinic, a doctor's office, or even a home.
Unless an emergency exists, a sample of blood will be drawn for blood typing and cross-matching with the blood to be received. The blood type must be accurately identified when a person is to receive whole blood or red blood cells. The four blood types are known as A, B, AB, and O. Blood will also be referred to as Rh positive or Rh negative, depending upon whether the Rh antigen is present on the membrane of the red blood cells.
A careful history and physical will be performed before the transfusion. An intravenous (IV) will be started, usually in the hand or arm. To lessen the chance of a reaction, healthcare workers take several precautions. The blood is double checked by two healthcare workers to confirm that the blood about to be given is intended for the person about to receive it. The blood is run slowly, over 1.5 to 4 hours. The person's vital signs, such as temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure, will be closely watched during the procedure.
Because an adverse reaction is most likely to occur in the first 15 minutes, the person is watched closely at first. Signs and symptoms of a transfusion reaction include:
chest or back pain
pain at the infusion site
hives and itching
anything "unusual" or of concern