A blood transfusion is the delivery of blood through a vein. The blood may come from an unrelated or related donor.
For planned procedures, some people have their blood drawn at an earlier date and stored until the transfusion is needed.
A blood transfusion should help increase your level of blood cells or other specific blood products. It may be needed if you have:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
You will need to be seated. A bag containing the blood product will be hung nearby. An IV needle will be placed into a vein in your hand or arm. The blood product will drip slowly from the bag through a tube into your vein. After the bag of blood product is empty, the needle in your arm will be removed.
Common IV Placement
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Throughout the transfusion, your vital signs will be checked regularly. You will also be asked about pain, itching, or discomfort. Most reactions occur early in a blood transfusion, so you will be monitored more closely during the first 15 minutes.
About 2–4 hours
The placement of the IV needle is uncomfortable. After the needle is in place, it should not cause pain.
Immediately following your procedure, the staff may:
When you return home after the transfusion, carefully follow your doctor’s advice regarding any activity restrictions or other instructions.
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Association of Blood Banks
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Blood Services
Blood transfusion. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-transfusion. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Hladik W, Dollard SC, Mermin J, et al. Transmission of human herpesvirus 8 by blood transfusion. N Engl J Med. 2006;355(13):1331-1338.
Posthouwer D, Fischer K, van Erpecum KJ, Mauser-Bunschoten EP.. The natural history of childhood-acquired hepatitis C infection in patients with inherited bleeding disorders. Transfusion. 2006;46(8):1360-1366.
Red blood cell transfusion. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T909621/Red-blood-cell-transfusion . Updated December 19, 2017. Accessed March 23, 2018.
The process. American Red Cross website. Available at: https://www.redcrossblood.org/learn-about-blood/blood-transfusions/the-process. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 5/1/2014