Blood transfusion

This text provides information in simple language on the topic: Blood transfusion.

What is a blood transfusion?

Blood is very important to the body. The blood brings oxygen and nutrients to the organs. The blood flows through the blood vessels throughout the body. The body can normally produce blood on its own.

Has someone had an accident? Then the body may lose a lot of blood. Then the body may not be able to produce enough blood on its own. Affected people then need a blood transfusion. That means: the affected person gets blood in the hospital.

With a blood transfusion, the person gets their own blood or blood from someone else. The blood is given through the veins. Veins carry blood to the heart. Veins and arteries together make up the blood vessels in the body.

What happens during a blood transfusion?

Does a patient need a blood transfusion? Then the doctor speaks to the patient. The doctor explains the blood transfusion process. And the doctor also explains the risks. The patient must consent to a blood transfusion. Does the patient consent to a blood transfusion? Then he has to sign a declaration of consent. In an emergency, however, the doctor can always perform a blood transfusion.

First, the patient gets a vein access. That means: the doctor inserts a small plastic tube into the vein. The patient will later receive the blood through this tube. The doctor checks several times: Can the patient tolerate the blood reserve? Only then does the patient receive the blood transfusion.

What is a blood bag?

Blood is made up of plasma and cells. In the blood, for example:

  • red blood cells
  • white blood cells
  • Platelets
  • Blood plasma. Blood plasma is a liquid.

In a blood transfusion, a patient is given blood. The blood is also called: blood reserve. There are different types of blood:

  • Conserved blood from whole blood. This is blood in all its components.
  • Conserved blood from individual components. Most of the time, the patient does not need whole blood. For example, the patient only gets red blood cells. Or the patient only gets blood plasma.
  • Does the blood come from blood donors? Then it says: foreign blood. The foreign blood is carefully examined for diseases.
  • Does the blood come from the patient himself? Then it says: autologous blood. For this purpose, blood is taken from the patient, for example, before an operation. You have to give your own blood at least three to six weeks before an operation.

The picture shows a blood bag

© Panthermedia / Vaximilian

When does a patient need a blood transfusion?

A blood transfusion can be for a number of reasons. Reasons for a blood transfusion are, for example:

  • a surgery. Sometimes a patient needs a blood transfusion during an operation. Such an operation is, for example, a heart operation or an operation on the blood vessels.
  • an accident. Has a person had a serious accident and lost a lot of blood? Then that person may need a blood transfusion.
  • some diseases. With some diseases, affected people lose a lot of blood. These diseases include, for example, cancer or leukemia. Then the affected people may also need a blood transfusion.

What are the risks of a blood transfusion?

A blood transfusion always has its risks. Examples of risks of a blood transfusion are:

  • a bruise or inflammation at the injection site
  • small lumps in the blood
  • fever
  • chills
  • malaise

Sometimes the patient gets blood with the wrong blood type. Then maybe the red blood cells dissolve. This can be very dangerous for the patient. That is why the doctor checks several times before the blood transfusion: Can the patient tolerate the blood supply?

Viruses can also be transmitted during a blood transfusion. The viruses can cause diseases. HI viruses can lead to AIDS. Viruses are rarely transmitted, however. The blood is precisely examined.

A blood transfusion can cause allergic reactions. Affected people may then have an itchy rash. An allergic shock can rarely occur. That means: the cycle breaks down. The patient may then stop breathing. Therefore, a patient must always be hospitalized for a blood transfusion.

Where can you get more information?

Would you like to read more about blood transfusions? You can find more information about blood transfusion here. Attention: This link leads out of our simple language offer. The information is then no longer in plain language.

Attention: This text only contains general information. The text does not replace a visit to the doctor. Only a doctor can give you accurate information. Are you feeling sick? Or do you have questions about an illness? Then you should always see a doctor.

We wrote the texts together with the Light Language Research Center. The light language research center is at the University of Hildesheim.