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:
Your doctor will review any possible complications with you. Complications from a blood transfusion are rare but may include:
You will be asked to sit in a comfortable chair. 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 provide the following care:
When you return home after the transfusion, carefully follow your doctor’s advice regarding any activity restrictions or other instructions.
After arriving home, contact your doctor right away if you have any symptoms of an allergic reaction or infection, such as:
In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Association of Blood Banks
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Public Health Agency of Canada
Hladik et al. Transmission of human herpesvirus 8 by blood transfusion. N Engl J Med. 2006 Sep 28;355(13):1331-1338.
Posthouwer D. The natural history of childhood-acquired hepatitis C infection in patients with inherited bleeding disorders. Transfusion. 2006;46(8):1360-1366.
What is a blood transfusion? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at:
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Updated January 30, 2012. Accessed January 14, 2016.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 5/1/2014