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What is a Blood Transfusion: Procedure, Types & Benefits



What is a blood transfusion?

A blood transfusion is a routine procedure where donated blood is injected through an IV (Intravenous) tube in a vein in your arm. It is a life-saving procedure that replaces the blood you may have lost in an injury or surgery.

A blood transfusion also helps provide blood or blood components in case of an illness or medical condition, like anaemia, haemophilia, certain cancers, or sickle cell disease.

Blood components provided through a blood transfusion include:

  • Red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout your body
  • Platelets that help in the clotting of blood
  • The plasma that transports the nutrients throughout your body
  • Cryoprecipitate that helps your blood clot.

Let's understand more about blood transfusion, its procedure, benefits and risks.

Why do you need a blood transfusion?

You may need a blood transfusion due to the following reasons:

  • You have lost a lot of blood in an injury from a crash or a natural disaster
  • You have lost blood during surgery
  • You may have an illness like kidney disease or leukaemia that leads to anaemia
  • You have a blood disorder like thalassemia or sickle cell disease
  • You are undergoing cancer treatment

What are the different types of blood transfusions?

There are different blood transfusion types. These are:

  • A red blood cell transfusion: It is conducted in case of anaemia or iron deficiency.
  • A platelet transfusion: It is carried out in case your body doesn't have enough platelets due to cancer.
  • A plasma transfusion: It is provided to replace the proteins of your blood to help it clot. This transfusion is needed in case of severe bleeding or liver disease.

What should you expect during a blood transfusion?

Blood transfusion procedures are carried out at hospitals and take an hour to four hours, depending on how much blood you need. Here's what to expect during a blood transfusion.

  • Before the procedure: Your blood type will be checked and the identification check will ensure you receive the right blood. A nurse will measure your blood pressure, temperature and heart rate before the procedure begins.
  • During the procedure: You will be asked to sit or lie down for the procedure. An intravenous (IV) tube will be inserted with a needle into a vein in your arm. The donated blood will enter your bloodstream through the intravenous line. The nurse will monitor your blood pressure, temperature and heart rate during the procedure.
  • After the procedure: Once the blood transfusion is complete, the nurse will remove the IV tube and needle. You might notice a slight bruise at the needle site. It will go away in a few days.

What are the benefits of a blood transfusion?

Blood transfusions save lives, as the absence of blood or blood components is a serious condition that can turn fatal.

The different components of blood, namely plasma, platelets, red blood cells and cryoprecipitate, play crucial roles:

  • They supply oxygen to the cells and tissues.
  • They provide nutrients, like amino acids, fatty acids and glucose, for energy and to help the organs perform their functions.
  • They help remove waste, such as carbon dioxide, lactic acid and urea.
  • They protect the body from infections, illness and diseases.
  • They control the body's temperature.

Blood transfusion can help replace lost blood or its components and prevent health complications.

What are the risks of a blood transfusion?

Blood transfusions are considered safe procedures and rarely cause any complications. Risks, if any, include mild complications during the transfusion or after several days.

Some reactions of a blood transfusion include:

  • Fever: You may get a fever 1 to 6 hours after a blood transfusion, which is not considered serious. However, if you feel nauseated or experience chest pain, please consult your doctor immediately.
  • Allergic reactions: Despite the correct blood type, allergic reactions to a blood transfusion are common. You may feel itchy and develop hives. This may happen either during the transfusion or after some time.
  • Bloodborne infections: Blood banks screen the donors and the donated blood for viruses and parasitic and bacterial infections. Therefore infection from a transfusion is rare. Some rare ones may include HIV, hepatitis B and C, West Nile Virus, and Zika Virus.
  • Anaphylactic reaction: This reaction may happen soon after the transfusion procedure begins. If you experience shortness of breath, swelling of the face and throat and low blood pressure, please inform your doctor immediately, as it could cause serious complications.
  • Acute immune hemolytic reaction: This is a rare complication of blood transfusion. This usually occurs during or immediately after the transfusion. It happens when your body attacks the red blood cells in the blood you receive. You may experience fever, shivering, nausea, chest pain, pain in the lower back and dark-coloured urine.
  • Delayed hemolytic reaction: This is similar to acute immune hemolytic reaction. However, it occurs gradually.
  • Hemochromatosis: In case of multiple blood transfusions, you may be at risk of having excess iron in your blood, which may damage your heart and liver.
  • Transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI): This is a rare risk of blood transfusion and occurs within hours of starting the transfusion. It may cause fever and low blood pressure. This reaction may occur due to antibodies in the donated blood.
  • Graft-versus-host disease: This is a rare risk of blood transfusion and has a fatal reaction. It occurs when the white blood cells from the donated blood attack your bone marrow. A weak immune system increases the risk of this complication.

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To sum up

If you have a blood disorder or suffer blood loss in an injury or surgery, your doctor will advise a blood transfusion. It is a safe procedure conducted at the hospital. Donor banks take complete care to check the donated blood to ensure your safety from infections. You will receive blood that matches your type. The nurse will monitor your condition throughout the procedure. A blood transfusion replaces lost blood and its components, prevents complications and saves lives.

Please approach a trustworthy pathology laboratory like Metropolis India. We offer specific blood tests that help determine your blood group. It is a necessary procedure before a blood transfusion.

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