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    Blood Transfusion

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    Your doctor has ordered a blood transfusion as part of your continuing medical care. Before the blood transfusion procedure, your doctor will explain it to you in detail. If you have any questions about options related to a blood transfusion, please discuss with your doctor. Make sure you have read before your transfusion, "A Patient's Guide to Blood Transfusions" prepared by the California Department of Health ServicesOpens new window.

    Usually, the registered nurse (RN) or an approved health care professional administers a blood transfusion. Blood transfusions increase the amount of blood components in your bloodstream. These components include whole blood, platelets, packed red blood cells, or plasma products. Blood transfusions replace blood that is lost or depleted due to injury, surgery, sickle cell disease, or cancer. Red blood cells bring oxygen and nutrients through the bloodstream to the tissues and organs inside your body. Occasionally, platelets may be given to improve your body's ability to clot blood and to control bleeding. Plasma products replace volume and provide blood factors that help with blood clotting. A transfusion of blood components may be given to enhance your recovery or healing process.

    What Are the Risks Associated with Blood Transfusions?

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), and The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) regulate the process of obtaining, storing, preparing, and testing of blood. These organizations are responsible for ensuring a safe blood supply.

    Blood donors must go through an extensive screening process before they are able to donate blood. After blood is drawn, it is tested for blood type, RH factor, as well as for antibodies. Multiple individual screening tests are performed for evidence of infection and viruses. With this extensive testing, the chance of receiving a unit of blood containing the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or hepatitis C virus is around 1 in 2 million, and less than 1 in 200,000 for hepatitis B.(Stramer SL et al)

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    How Do I Prepare for a Blood Transfusion?

    • You can expect that your doctor will order a blood specimen to confirm your blood type and to check compatibility with the donor unit. Compatibility testing (also referred to as cross matching ) is done even if you have donated your own (autologous) blood.


    • Check with your doctor about how much time to plan for your blood transfusion procedure. Each unit of blood usually transfuses over 1½ to 2 hours. Some transfusions are for 2-3 units. You may be here for several hours depending on what your doctor has ordered for you. Please arrange your transportation accordingly.

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    Where Do I Go for my Blood Transfusion?

    • If You Are a Patient in the Hospital: Your nurse administers your blood transfusion at your bedside and monitors you throughout the entire procedure.


    • If You Are a Patient Coming from Home to the Pacific Campus: Blood transfusions are given in our Ambulatory Care Unit (ACU), 2351 Clay Street, on the 6th floor. Register with the admitting staff in the Ambulatory Care Unit when you arrive. Parking is available in the garage located at 2405 Clay Street (corner of Clay and Webster Streets).


    • If You Are a Patient Coming from Home to the Davies Campus: The staff will contact you the day before your blood transfusion procedure. Proceed to either:
      1. North Tower - 4th floor, Ambulatory Care Unit (ACU), Nurses' Station, or
      2. South Tower - 1st floor, Outpatient Infusion Services (OIS), Room 151A
      Parking is available in the garage located at Castro and Duboce Streets.

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    What Can I Expect During a Blood Transfusion?

    • The nurse will ask you to sign a consent form verifying that you understand and agree to the procedure as explained by your doctor.


    • You will be positioned comfortably for this procedure. The nurse will insert an intravenous line (IV) in your arm.


    • Your doctor may order medication for you to take prior to the transfusion. The nurse will explain the reason and action of the medications.


    • For patient safety, 2 nurses will verify your identity by checking your I.D. band with the unit of blood.


    • The nurse will start the transfusion and monitor your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure before, during, and after the transfusion.


    • Also, the nurse will observe for signs of a reaction to the transfusion(s). Reactions to blood transfusions are rare. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, chills or fever (101°F / 38.3°C or above), itching/hives, rash, nausea, lower back pain, feelings of apprehension, tingling or numbness; heat, pain, or swelling at IV site. Please report these symptoms immediately to your nurse.


    • You may eat and drink during this procedure. With the assistance of a nurse, you may get up and go to the bathroom.

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    What Should I Watch Out for After I Go Home?

    • You may resume your normal activities.


    • Continue your usual diet and medications.


    • Be alert for symptoms of a reaction after you go home. Call your doctor immediately or go to the Emergency Room if you experience any of the following symptoms:
      • Shortness of breath

      • Chills or fever (101°F / 38.3°C or above)

      • Itching/hives, rash

      • Nausea

      • Lower back pain

      • Feelings of apprehension

      • Tingling or numbness

      • Heat, pain, or swelling at IV site

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    More Ways to Learn

    Visit the U.S. Food and Drug AdministrationOpens new window Web site.


    Frequently Asked Questions

    Question: How long does a blood transfusion take?
    Answer: A blood transfusion may take several hours depending on what your doctor has ordered for you. Initially, it has to be cross matched and this process can take up to two (2) hours. Also, each unit of blood transfuses over 1½ to 2 hours.

    Question: Can I drive home after a blood transfusion?
    Answer: Yes, you may drive home after a blood transfusion once you are released by the nursing staff.

    Question: What should I watch out for after I go home?
    Answer: Be alert for symptoms of a reaction after you go home. Call your doctor immediately or go to the Emergency Room if you experience any of the following symptoms: Shortness of breath, chills or fever (101°F / 38.3°C or above), itching/hives, rash, lower back pain, feelings of apprehension, tingling or numbness; heat, pain or swelling at IV site.


    1Stramer SL, Glynn SA, Kleinman SH et al. "Detection of HIV-1 and HCV infections among antibody-negative blood donors by nucleic acid-amplification testing." New England Journal Medicine vol 351, pp.760-768, August 2004.

    Produced by the Center for Patient and Community Education in association with the staff and physicians at California Pacific Medical Center. Last updated: 8/07


    Funded by: A generous donation from the Mr. and Mrs. Arthur A. Ciocca Foundation.

    Note: This information is not meant to replace any information or personal medical advice which you get directly from your doctor(s). If you have any questions about this information, such as the risks or benefits of the treatment listed, please ask your doctor(s).

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