About Blood Transfusions
Lifesaving Blood Transfusions
If you’re looking for information about blood, you’re in the right place. From donations to transfusions, LifeServe Blood Center is a plethora of information. We’re partnered with the Blood Centers of America’s educational website Blood4Me.com to educate hospital patients about the safety and process of blood transfusions.
There’s No Substitute for Human Blood
Blood is living tissue that cleans and nourishes the human body while also fighting infections, healing wounds and performing many other vital functions for the human body. It is a fragile substance that cannot be manufactured and can only be stored for a very limited time. There is no substitute for blood. Donors are the only source of blood for patients who need it.
Blood can be separated into various components: red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma and platelets. Each component serves a different purpose for the human body. Red cells, white cells and platelets, made in the marrow of bones, fight infection, carry oxygen and help control bleeding. Plasma functions as a carrier for blood cells, nutrients, enzymes and hormones throughout the body.
Just one pint of donated blood can help up to three different people. Therefore, LifeServe Blood Center relies on charitable community members to help provide blood to people in need. Giving blood is a safe, simple procedure.
Transfusions by the Numbers:
- Cancer Patients: can use up to 8 units of blood a month.
- Bone Marrow Transplant: can use up to 2 units a day.
- Cardiovascular Surgery: can use between 2-25 units.
- Liver Transplant: can use up to 100 units.
- Auto/Trauma Accident Patients: can use up to 50 units.
Guaranteeing a Safe Blood Supply
LifeServe Blood Center focuses heavily on the safety and quality of the community blood supply.
The following procedures assure the safety of the blood supply:
Healthy, Honest and Responsible Volunteer Donors
Direct and Comprehensive Screen of Donors by Health Professionals
A mini-physical is conducted on donors before they donate. This includes a screening of the donor’s temperature, pulse, hemoglobin and blood pressure. A series of health and lifestyle related questions are also asked, including questions asking if they have any signs or symptoms of AIDS and if they consider themselves to be at risk for the AIDS virus.
Thorough Labratory Testing
All blood undergoes testing in LifeServe Blood Center’s state-of-the-art laboratory to make sure it is safe to transfuse to a hospital patient. In fact, more than one million separate tests are performed each year on the blood collected
State-of-the-Art Laboratory Testing
The first stop donated blood makes after donation is to LifeServe Blood Center’s state-of-the art laboratory. Every unit of blood collected is subject to fifteen different tests before it is given to any patient.
After testing, blood is separated into various component parts – red cells, plasma, and platelets – that can help save the lives of up to three different hospital patients. Collected, tested, and processed blood is then transported to several hospitals across Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota in addition to serving national and global needs as they arise.
Blood samples are subjected to the following confidential tests:
- ABO grouping
- Rh blood typing
- Screening for irregular antibodies
- Hepatitis B & C
- HTLV testing
- West Nile Virus
- Zika virus
Blood Transfusion FAQ’s
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why do I need to have a blood transfusion?
- There are many reasons you might need a blood transfusion. You may need a transfusion because of the effects of a disease, surgery or chemotherapy. Trauma victims can also require blood transfusions.
How will I feel during a transfusion?
- Your health care provider will check on you during the transfusion. Your temperature, pulse and blood pressure will be tested before the procedure begins and then again during the transfusion and again at the end. If you do not feel well at any time during the transfusion, be sure to tell your health care provider.
How long does a transfusion take?
- One transfusion of red blood cells usually takes 2 to 4 hours. One transfusion of platelets takes 30 to 60 minutes. One transfusion of plasma usually takes 20 to 30 minutes. Blood can be transfused as fast your body will tolerate. Your physician will determine how fast this is and a nurse will monitor that you are okay during the transfusion. Someone will come back to check on you several times during your transfusion.
How can I be sure I receive the right blood type?
- Your blood type is either A, B, AB, or O. It’s also either Rh positive (+) or negative (-). Before you receive a transfusion, your blood will be tested for ABO and Rh as well as a screen for unexpected antibodies to red blood cells.
Your blood type will be checked with a test called a type and crossmatch or type and screen. The results of these tests are used to match your blood type with the blood in the blood bank. Prior to starting the blood transfusion your healthcare provider will check to make sure that the blood is the correct match for you before they give you the transfusion. Some products such as platelets do not need to be ABO matched and others, such as plasma do not need to be matched exactly but must be compatible.
There is a very rigorous process put in place to ensure that you get safe blood of the right blood type and right unit of red blood cells. First, multiple steps in the lab and at the bedside will be taken to confirm your identify during the process. If you need a type and cross match, a blood sample will be needed. When your blood sample is drawn, the tubes will be labelled with your information in your presence. This testing is done to ensure the units you will receive are compatible with your blood. The testing of your blood type will be done by at least two different people or will be compared to your previous results. When the initial sample is collected for typing and cross matching you will have a bracelet put on your arm that links you to the specimen drawn. It is important to keep than arm band in place and notify your healthcare provider if it is removed for any reason.
Once the blood is ready, the blood product will be checked again at your bedside. Your health care provider may ask you to state your name and date of birth. They will also check the label carefully against the details of your identification band and/or chart.
Does getting a blood transfusion hurt?
- It doesn’t hurt to have a blood transfusion. Most of the time it requires a needle with an intravenous line be placed in your arm. The only pain you may feel is when the needle is placed in the vein. The pain will go away quickly.
Are there any risks associated with a blood transfusion?
- Even with all the precautions and testing, blood transfusions, like all medical procedures still have some risks. These risks include the very small chance (less than 1 in 100) of having an allergic reaction, shortness of breath or a rash/hives. In extremely rare cases, you may get an infection. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about these risks before you receive a transfusion.
How can I be sure the blood is safe?
There are many safeguards in place in the United States to ensure a safe blood supply. Before donating blood, all donors must complete a confidential interview and health check. After blood is donated, the blood is tested for blood type (ABO and Rh), antibodies and is screened for infectious diseases including:
- Hepatitis B and C
- A virus associated with a very rare form of leukemia
- West Nile virus
- Trypanosoma cruzi (a parasite that causes Chagas disease)
- Zika virus
- Bacteria (platelets only)
If the donated blood tests show any of these infections, the blood is discarded and not used.
Can I give blood for myself?
Volunteer blood is safe. However, in some instances, such as a patient with many antibodies or compatibility issues, health care providers may encourage people scheduled for surgery to donate their own blood. The blood is stored and given back if and when you need it. This is called an autologous donation.
Ask your doctor if you can donate your own blood. If this is possible, arrangements will be made with the blood bank for you to begin banking your blood. In order to do this, you will need enough time to restore red cells before surgery. You may donate your own blood several times before your surgery and your red cell count will be tested before each donation to make sure the donations are not making you anemic. Your blood is good for 42 days. For more information about autologous blood donations, read the resource Being Your Own Blood Donor.
What if I don’t want a blood transfusion?
It’s always your right to refuse a treatment. However, keep in mind that doctors recommend a transfusion only when they think it is needed. A large amount of blood is lost during some types of surgery. If this blood is not replaced, you can die.
If you want to avoid a blood transfusion or want to reduce the amount of blood you will need, it is important to talk to your doctor about this as early in the process is possible.
If you are a Jehovah’s Witness or have other objections to blood transfusion, it is important to discuss this with your doctor.
Is there a substitute for blood if I need a transfusion?
- There are no substitutes for blood. This is why we are so grateful to the many family members and friends who donate their blood.
For more FAQ’s or information about blood transfusions, click here.