Blood transfusion is a life-saving measure which involves receiving blood or blood products through the blood vessel (intravenously). Collecting and giving blood is a process that is performed to replace lost blood from the circulation. About 85 million units of red blood cells are transfused in a given year.

Blood gives life to the body. It is the fluid in humans and animals that supplies oxygen and nutrients to all the cells of the body. It also helps to transport waste from the cells. Blood consists of numerous cells suspended in plasma. The body contains about five (5) litres of blood.

Types of blood transfusion

Blood can be divided into various components; red blood cell, white blood cells, platelet, clotting factor and plasma. Each component can be given to a person based on the requirement of the person. The types of blood transfusion include;

  1. Whole blood; all the component of blood is present in this type of transfusion.
  2. Packed red blood cell: this is the most commonly transfused part of blood. It consists of red blood cells which are needed in the transport of oxygen and nutrients to the cells. Red blood cells also transports waste from cell to where they will be excreted (liver, lungs, kidney..). It is usually used in people with anaemia (when blood has a lower number of red blood cells than is required for that age and sex)
  3. Platelet concentrate and clotting factor: these can be used in people with bleeding disorders such as hemophilia, internal bleeding which can also lead to disseminated intravascular coagulopathy.
  4. Plasma transfusion: Plasma is the liquid part of your blood. It’s mainly water, but also contains proteins, clotting factors, hormones, vitamins, cholesterol, sugar, sodium, potassium, calcium, and more. It can be given to patients involved in burns and those with liver failure.

Giving Blood

The various sources of giving blood include;

Autologous giving of blood: this is the collection and reinfusion of the patient’s own red blood cells.

Donor blood transfusion: this is the transfusion of blood gotten from another person (donor) into the recipient.

Indication for the giving of blood

  • Trauma
  • Splenic rupture
  • Bleeding disorder such as; Von Willibrand disorder, hemophilia.
  • Medical illness such as; cancer, kidney failure, chemotherapy, sickle cell anemia, iron deficiency anaemia, surgery e.t.c.
  • Surgery

Process of blood transfusion

Blood is usually stored in a blood bank at optimal temperature and for a period of time.

Once a need for transfusion is noticed, it is important you get blood sample from the patient for grouping and cross-matching with the intended blood for transfusion. This is to avoid unwanted reactions in the blood recipient.

It is important all the materials required for transfusion are available before the outset of collecting blood and reinfusing it into circulation.

The process of giving blood can take about 1-4 hours depending on the indication for the blood transfusion, the volume of the transfusion, and the age of the recipient.

It is important to regularly observe the person during and even after giving blood in case of any adverse reaction.


They include;

  • Infection occurs when the blood isn’t properly screened. Infections that can be contacted includes; malaria, HIV, hepatitis
  • Allergic reaction: it can result in headache, fever, itching.Consequently, allergic transfusion reactions occur in 1 to 3 percent of transfusions.
  • Difficulty breathing (pulmonary edema): this can result due to excessive giving of blood or transfusion over a short period of time.
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Circulation overload: when excessive blood is given
  • Iron overload: excessive iron within the body due to the giving of blood. This commonly occurs in sickle cell patients.
  • Transfusion-associated graft-versus-host disease

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