Where Does the Blood for a Transfusion Comes From?
Because there's no substitute for blood, the blood supply used for transfusion
must be donated. The three types of blood donation are:
Autologous (ah-TOL-uh-gus) blood donation. This is when someone
donates their own blood ahead of time for a planned surgery or other procedure. There
is no age requirement, but in general, kids don't donate their blood for their own
use until they're over age 12.
Directed donation. This is when a family member or friend with
a compatible (good fit) blood type donates blood specifically for use by a patient
in need of transfusion.
Volunteer donation. There's no medical proof that blood from directed
donors is any safer than blood from volunteer donors. So most patients receive blood
donated through blood drives. These are often run by agencies like the American Red
Cross. The minimum age for donating blood is 16 or 17 years old, depending on where
a person lives.
How Should We Prepare for a Blood Transfusion?
If your child needs a blood transfusion, the doctor will describe the procedure.
Parents should ask questions if the explanation isn't clear. A parent or legal guardian
will need to sign an informed
consent form. This states that you understand the procedure and its risks, and
give your permission for your child to have it.
If the situation is not a life-threatening emergency, two important tests will
be done before the transfusion:
1. Blood typing. To confirm your child's blood type, a nurse or
technician will draw a sample from a vein in your child's arm. (Except for the brief
needle stick, this isn't painful and only takes a few minutes.) This blood is immediately
labeled with your child's name, birth date, and medical record number, and an armband
with matching information is made for your child to wear. The blood is then sent to
the hospital's blood bank lab, where technicians test it for blood
The 4 types of blood are:
Each blood type also can be positive (+) or negative.
2. Cross-matching. After blood typing is complete, a compatible
donor blood is chosen. As a final check, a blood bank technologist will mix a small
sample of your child's blood with a small sample of the donor blood to confirm they
are compatible. Then the blood is labeled with your child's name, birth date, and
medical record number and taken to where your child will get the transfusion.
What Happens During a Blood Transfusion?
When a child gets a transfusion:
Blood is given through a needle placed in a vein.
The needle is attached to thin plastic tubing that connects to a plastic bag containing
The vital signs (temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate) are checked before,
during, and after the transfusion.
A nurse watches for any signs of an allergic or other type of reaction, including
rash, fever, headache, or swelling.
Transfusions usually take 1 to 4 hours, depending on how much blood is given and
your child's blood type. You can stay with your child, who will be awake. Your child
can sit comfortably in a reclining chair or lie down on a bed, watch a movie, listen
to music, or play quietly, and might be able to eat and drink, walk around a bit,
and use the bathroom.
After the transfusion, if your child is going home, the plastic tube is removed
from the vein and a bandage is placed over the area. The site may be slightly sore
or tingly for a little while. Medicine may be given for any mild side effects, such
as fever or headache.
Are There Any Risks to Blood Transfusions?
Some people worry about getting diseases from infected blood. But the United States
has one of the safest blood supplies in the world. Many organizations, including community
blood banks and the federal government, work hard to make sure that the blood supply
The risk of getting a disease like HIV
or hepatitis through a transfusion
is extremely low in the United States because of very thorough blood screening. Also,
the needles and other equipment used are sterile, and are used only on one person
and then thrown away in special containers.
If you have any questions about the risks of the transfusion, ask your child's
health care team.
What Are the Benefits of Blood Transfusions?
In kids with anemia or those getting
chemotherapy, the greatest benefit
of a transfusion is increased blood flow to nourish the organs and improve oxygen
levels in the body. This can keep them from feeling too tired and help give them enough
energy for the activities of daily life. Benefits like this often are felt fairly
For patients with bleeding problems, transfusions with platelets or plasma can
help to control or prevent bleeding complications.
When your child is having any kind of procedure, it's understandable to be a little
uneasy. But it helps to know that blood transfusions are common procedures and complications
are rare. Talk with your child's doctor or health care team if you still have concerns.