Blood transfusions are an important medical procedure undertaken by most healthcare institutions. Just as there are many misgivings about blood donation, there are misconceptions and misunderstandings around blood transfusion. That is why it’s important to know the facts about blood transfusion. You can save a life someday by donating blood, or somebody near and dear to you may require a blood transfusion someday.
A blood transfusion is a procedure in which blood from another person is added to your own to boost your blood level or supply missing components in your blood. There are various medical emergencies in which additional blood will be required.
- You have had a complex or major surgery for an ailment, or a serious injury, and you need to replace lost blood
- You are suffering from haemorrhage or bleeding in your digestive tract due to ulcers or other conditions
- You are suffering from leukemia, kidney disease or severe liver problems that causes anemia (not enough healthy red blood cells)
- You have, or are receiving radiation or chemotherapy treatments for cancer in any part of the body
- You have a blood disorder such as haemophilia (the blood does not clot properly)
- Sickle cell disease: This is a disorder which changes the shape and function of red blood cells
The blood is made of four major components: red-blood-cells (RBC), white-blood-cells (WBC), platelets and plasma which can be easily separated out from each other. Accordingly, there are 4 different types of blood transfusions:
- RBC transfusions: When a person experiences blood loss due to an accident or injury, or has anemia due to iron deficiency or other reasons, or suffers from a blood disorder, RBCs are transfused.
- Platelet transfusions: A platelet disorder, chemotherapy treatment for cancer or diseases such as dengue can cause a drop in platelet counts which can be dangerous. In such a case, platelets are isolated from donors and transfused into the patient.
- Plasma transfusions: Plasma is the fluid in which RBC, WBC and platelets are suspended. It contains various salts, enzymes and proteins important for maintaining health. Persons suffering from severe burns, infections, or liver failure may require plasma derived from the blood of another person.
Also Read: Convalescent Plasma Therapy: A possible cure for Covid-19?
- Whole blood transfusion: When a person has had a severe accident or injury, there can be significant blood loss. In such a case, all the 3 components: RBC, WBC and platelets are given.
Blood transfusion, although generally very safe, comes with a certain amount of risk, so it’s good to be aware of them. After the person has received blood from another donor, any of the following conditions can occur either immediately or after some time:
- Fever: Fever is generally not serious, but if it’s accompanied by nausea or chest pain, you should consult a doctor right-away.
- Allergic reactions: The person can develop itchy feel or hives
- Acute immune hemolytic reaction: In this condition, your body attacks the transfused RBCs, treating them as alien bodies. The person experiences fever, chills, nausea, pain in the chest, pain in the lower back and dark urine.
- Delayed hemolytic reaction: This is similar to the above conditions but happens slowly or gradually.
- Anaphylactic reaction: Off all the risks, this is one of the most serious and fatal one. Just after start of the transfusion, the person may experience swelling of the face and throat, shortness of breath, and low BP.
- Transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI): Again, a fatal condition although quite rare. Anti-bodies or other substances present in the donor’s blood can trigger a fever, low BP and damage to the lungs.
- Blood-borne Infections: Blood banks thoroughly screen donors and test the donated blood for viruses, bacteria, and parasites so the risk of infections is very low but a rare possibility. The recipient of transfusion can contract HIV, Hepatitis B and C, West Nile virus or Zika virus
- Hemochromatosis or Iron overload: People who are having repeated transfusions can get too much iron in their blood which can damage their heart and liver.
- Graft-versus-host disease: Another rare yet fatal condition in which the WBCs in the new blood attack your bone marrow, if your immunity is very low.
To begin with, the physician will assess your and your family’s medical history. He/she will also check on the medications you may be taking for other ailments. Then depending on what is the present issue, he/she will choose one of the 4 types of transfusions. To begin with, a sample of your blood and the donor’s blood will be checked for compatibility. That will decide how you will respond to the transfusion. In case you have had a transfusion in the past and had an adverse reaction, you should mention this to the doctor.
The duration of the procedure can last between 1 to 4 hours depending on the type of transfusion. There is no diet change or any other precaution to be taken before the procedure. However, the doctor may advise you to temporarily stop some medication. Transfusion is painless and is done without anaesthesia. The recipient can be sitting or lying down as preferred.
To start the transfusion, a healthcare professional will place a small needle into the vein, in your arm. This is hooked to a rubber tube and bag containing the blood. Your vital signs will be monitored throughout the procedure. Both during and within 24 hours of the procedure, you must inform the doctor of symptoms you are experiencing. There may be slight itching or bruising at the spot where the needle was pricked. But this will go away soon. In 24 hours time, you can return to your normal routines.
Seek expert help
Blood transfusions require a certain experience and expertise to perform them, if not the risks are high. Consult a reputed physician or a reputed Hospital for the same. This will ensure less risk, fewer complications and best results.
Kauvery Hospital is globally known for its multidisciplinary services at all its Centers of Excellence, and for its comprehensive, Avant-Grade technology, especially in diagnostics and remedial care in heart diseases, transplantation, vascular and neurosciences medicine. Located in the heart of Trichy (Tennur, Royal Road and Alexandria Road (Cantonment), Chennai, Karaikudi, Hosur and Salem, the hospital also renders adult and pediatric trauma care.
Chennai – 044 4000 6000 • Trichy – Cantonment – 0431 4077777 • Trichy – Heartcity – 0431 4003500 • Trichy – Tennur – 0431 4022555 • Karaikudi – 04565 244555 • Hosur – 04344 272727 • Salem – 0427 2677777