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Blood transfusion: what it is for and side effects

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Blood transfusion is a procedure in which blood is given to a person through an IV that is placed in one of the blood vessels. The time it takes for this procedure will depend on the amount of blood the person needs, it usually takes between 1 and 4 hours . Blood transfusion is a very safe treatment and although there are people who never need a transfusion in their life, it is a much more common procedure than is believed.

According to the World Health Organization, blood transfusions can save people’s lives and hence the importance of every health center having an important blood supply to provide patients if necessary . The transfusion is performed from a donor subject to another recipient, but it can also be donated to blood banks so that they store this fluid. In this FastlyHealarticle you will learn what blood transfusion is for and what its side effects are .

What is a blood transfusion for?

Blood transfusion is a procedure that is indicated to treat people who in due course have a deficiency of some blood component, such as plasma, which cannot be replaced by another substance and whose function cannot be replaced with the intake of treatment or medications.

Blood transfusion is an indication that is not assigned lightly, but must be supported by a doctor’s decision based on a person’s blood tests, their health condition, an assessment of the benefit / risk that this process represents and on the importance of supplying the fluid to save someone’s life. Therefore, when a health specialist considers that a transfusion is necessary, it is usually in situations that can put the well-being of his patient at risk. Some of the most common situations in which a blood transfusion is indicated are:

  • Bleeding : when a person has suffered a significant injury and has lost a large amount of blood, an emergency transfusion may be necessary to help the person recover the amount of oxygen and blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets) that the body needs to function. Bleeds are caused by injuries such as falls, accidents, or a spontaneous event in those who have problems with the joints, gastrointestinal and urogenital tracts. Bleeding can be external, when blood flows through a natural opening such as the nose, vagina, mouth, or through a lesion in the skin; but there are also internal hemorrhages, which are those in which the blood leaks from the blood vessels or organs.
  • Medical complications : a blood transfusion may also be indicated when during a surgical intervention, such as a cesarean section, the person loses a large amount of blood and it is necessary to replace it to stabilize their health and avoid any risk. Usually the risk of blood transfusion in an operation is not high, but there is always the possibility of an unexpected complication.
  • Some diseases : some disorders, especially of hematological origin, suggest blood transfusion as a treatment. An example would be treatment for people with acute leukemia.

Types of blood transfusion

Blood transfusions can be different depending on the needs of the recipient, who may need this fluid with all its components, or may require only a part of them. For this reason, the types of transfusion are:

  • Red blood cells or red blood cells . The most common donation is one in which a concentrate of red blood cells is provided. It is indicated when there is hemorrhage, acute leukemia, anemia derived from chemotherapy treatment, surgical complications, medullary aplasia, myelodysplastic syndrome, hemolytic anemia. This transfusion is necessary every time a person has compromised the cardiocirculatory and oxygenating function of the blood.
  • Platelets . Platelet donation is another, less common type of blood transfusion. To perform a platelet transfusion, the blood must be placed in a centrifuge that divides its components and only the platelets of said fluid will be taken for the transfusion. Conditions that suggest a platelet deficit can be acute leukemia, bleeding complication, liver transplantation, medullary aplasia, myelodysplastic syndrome.
  • Other types of transfusions : Fresh frozen plasma or factor concentrates may also be transfusions, which are often common when a person is severely deficient in certain blood proteins. White blood cell transfusion is the least common and is indicated in people whose immune system is excessively depressed.

Donation types

The blood to be given to a person can come from three different sources:

  • Volunteer donation : is the most common donation source. In these cases the blood comes mostly from the blood bank, so the donor can be from a friend, close people or strangers.
  • Family Donation : A very close friend or relative donates the blood needed for the transfusion. Blood will be stored and repaired for the exclusive use of one person and must be donated days before it is needed, as it must be tested for compatibility.
  • Self-donation : blood is donated by the same person who may need it. This method is generally used as a preventive way before an operation. Donated blood is stored in the medical center’s blood bank until the person needs it. If the blood is not used after surgery, it is thrown away.

Risks of a blood transfusion

You may be aware of the danger of receiving blood from another person and being infected with HIV , hepatitis, and other blood-borne diseases. And it is that blood transfusions are not 100% safe despite the fact that donated blood is exhaustively analyzed in search of pathologies and infections and despite the fact that blood banks have a list of people who are not allowed to donate blood .

However, in order for a person to donate blood, they must answer a fairly extensive and detailed test on risk factors for infections that can be transmitted through the blood, travel history, sexual habits, drug use and general habits. In addition, once the person donates blood, this fluid is subjected to analysis to determine the presence of an infection and only when it is determined that the blood is clean is it approved for donation. Receiving blood from family or friends does not make the transfusion 100% safe.

Side effects of blood transfusion

  • Hemolytic reaction : It is a severe condition that a person presents after receiving a blood transfusion. This reaction occurs when the person’s immune system begins to destroy the received red blood cells. The hemolytic reaction is a consequence of having received a blood type not compatible with ours and causes chills, bleeding in the urine, fainting, flank pain, redness of the skin and back pain.
  • Bacterial infection : the recipient may have a bacterial infection that they have contracted from the donor’s blood.
  • Allergic reaction : as the immune system knows how to differentiate when the blood does not come from the body, itching or hives may occur after a transfusion as an allergic reaction to the blood received.
  • Some people develop a fever during or after the transfusion.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Blood transfusion: what it is for and side effects , we recommend that you enter our category of Blood, heart and circulation .

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