During a transfusion, blood is given intravenously to the patient through a peripheral IV or
central catheter line. This is given to build up blood levels. Injury, surgery, chemotherapy,
drugs, or certain diseases can cause levels to be low.
Blood can be given “whole,” but most often, one or more parts of the blood are given to patients.
The most common blood parts are red cells, platelets, plasma, and cryoprecipitate. The parts of
the blood that a patient gets depend on their needs.
ξ Red Blood Cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body. Without enough
red blood cells, patients may become anemic and may feel tired and look pale.
ξ Platelets help to clot blood and stop bleeding.
ξ Plasma also plays large role in blood clotting. This may be given if a patient is bleeding,
has low levels of clotting factors or a high INR.
ξ Cryoprecipitate is given to control bleeding. This is given to persons who have low
blood levels of one or more clotting factors.
What can I expect during the transfusion?
Before the transfusion, your nurse will make sure you have a recent type and screen which shows
your blood type. If you do not have a recent type and screen, your nurse will draw this lab now.
Tell your doctor if you have had a transfusion reaction before. Once the blood arrives, two
nurses will double check the blood product at the bedside to ensure you are receiving the proper
product. Your vital signs including your blood pressure, pulse, temperature and respiratory status
will be monitored frequently. Your nurse will stay in the room with you for at least the first 15
minutes as this is the most likely time for a transfusion reaction to occur.
During your transfusion, please let your nurse know right away if you have any of these
ξ bleeding, pain, or new bruising at the
ξ severe back pain
ξ fever, chills
ξ nausea, vomiting
ξ rash, hives, itching
ξ headache, dizziness
ξ chest pain
ξ fast heartbeat
ξ trouble breathing, wheezing
ξ dark or reddish urine
ξ yellowing of the skin or eyes
What can I expect after the blood transfusion?
Your lab levels will be rechecked an hour after the transfusion or as the doctor orders. If you
experience any of the above symptoms after the transfusion is completed, let your nurse or
doctor know right away as this may still be a sign of a transfusion reaction.
Along with our blood supplier, we aim to make our blood products as safe as they can be. Blood
that is given to patients has been carefully prepared and tested. Most blood products are given
without any problems. As with all procedures, complications can occur.
ξ Minor Reactions
During or right after a patient begins getting a blood product, they might notice a rash,
hives, itching, fever or chills. These symptoms are seldom serious. Nurses and doctors
watch for these signs. If a severe symptom such as trouble breathing, occurs, the doctor
and nurse will respond quickly.
ξ Serious Problems
Getting a disease from a blood product is highly unlikely. Yet, it can occur. The more
severe diseases carried through blood are:
o HIV: 1 in 2 million units transfused. This is a disease caused by the Human
Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The virus travels through blood and destroys the
body's disease fighting system. It can cause illness and death. Since early in
1985, all blood donors have been tested to see if they carry or are infected with
HIV. Because of careful screening and testing, the risk of getting AIDS from
blood transfusions is quite small.
o Hepatitis C: 1 in 1 million and Hepatitis B: 1 in 137,000 units transfused.
These impact the liver. The chance of getting hepatitis after getting a blood
product is very low. The risk is about 1 per 250,000 – 500,000 units transfused
for Hepatitis B and 1 per 2,000,000 units transfused for Hepatitis C. If Hepatitis
B occurs, it is often mild and patients get better. Yet, Hepatitis B & C can
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor.
This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because
each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team
when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 11/2015 University of
Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6346