A blood transfusion is a procedure in which a person receives blood from a donor intravenously. This is usually done when a person’s body cannot produce enough blood on its own or when the person goes through a trauma.

What is the importance of blood transfusion?

Blood transfusions are critical in replacing blood loss during surgery to treat an injury, treat conditions such as anemia or hemophilia, and help with blood clotting disorders. Blood can be transfused in whole or part, like the kidney or entire body.

Blood transfusions are done in a hospital setup or medical in a medical center setting. Trained medical professionals perform blood transfusions. On the one hand, blood transfusions can be lifesaving, but on the other hand, there are also risks associated with it. These steps include allergic reactions, infection, and other complications. Therefore, careful screening and monitoring are mainly used to minimize the chances of blood transfusion and ensure that blood transfusions are performed safely and effectively.

What are the types of blood transfusions?

Whole blood transfusion

As the name indicates, this involves the transfusion of all blood components, including red blood cells, plasma, and platelets. These transfusions are commonly used in emergencies or when a patient has lost significant blood.

Packed red blood cell (PRBC) transfusion

This type of transfusion involves only red blood cells in the receiver. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. PRBC transfusions are usually used to treat anemia or to cover blood loss during surgery or injury.

Platelet transfusion

Platelets in blood help with blood clotting. Platelet transfusions are specifically used to treat conditions that affect clottings, like leukemia and other blood disorders.

Plasma transfusion

Plasma is the blood component that contains proteins and other substances necessary for blood clotting. Plasma transfusions are used to treat conditions that affect clotting, such as liver disease or hemophilia.

Cryoprecipitate transfusion

Cryoprecipitate is a specific portion of the plasma that contains specific clotting factors. Cryoprecipitate transfusions primarily treat bleeding disorders and prevent bleeding during surgery.

What are the Reasons for Blood transfusion? 

Many reasons may develop why a person may need a blood transfusion. Some common causes are mentioned below.

Blood loss due to injury or surgery

If a person loses a significant amount of blood due to an injury or during surgery, they require a blood transfusion to cover up the lost blood.


Anemia is when the body does not produce enough red blood cells hence hemoglobin. This condition results in fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. Blood transfusions also are used to treat severe anemia.

Cancer treatment

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may damage a person’s bone marrow. This can reduce the body’s ability to produce red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Blood transfusions help to manage this side effect of cancer treatment.

Blood disorders

Certain blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease or thalassemia, cause a person’s body to produce adequate and abnormally shaped red blood cells. Blood transfusions are beneficial in these conditions.

Bleeding disorders

These disorders are categorized by conditions that affect blood clotting. For example, hemophilia or von Willebrand disease can result in excessive bleeding. Blood transfusions here replace clotting factors in the blood and prevent bleeding.

Organ transplant

Some people undergoing organ transplant surgery require blood transfusions during or after the procedure.

Chronic medical conditions

Chronic medical conditions such as sickle cell disease, thalassemia, and hemophilia demand blood transfusions.

What is the blood donation process?

The blood donation process involves many steps. First, the entire blood donation process takes around 30-45 minutes. Then, the blood collection takes about 10 minutes. Those steps are:


When a person arrives at a blood donation center, they will first demand basic information, such as name, date of birth, and contact information.

Health history screening

Before blood donations, the healthcare provider will ask about health history to identify whether the person is eligible to donate or not. This procedure involves questions about their medical history, recent travel, and lifestyle habits.

Physical exam

The healthcare provider also conducts a brief physical exam and checks the vitals. This is to ensure that the person is healthy enough to donate blood.

Blood donation

Once the person is sorted to donate, they will be asked to lie on a donation chair or bed. A healthcare provider then will clean the person’s arm with an antiseptic and insert a sterile needle into a vein in the arm. Blood will then be collected in a sterile bag or container. 


After the blood donation procedure, the person may be asked to rest for a few minutes and be provided with snacks and beverages to help them recover.

What are the risks and side effects of blood transfusions?

Blood transfusions can be considered safe but have risks and potential side effects. Some possible risks and side effects of blood transfusions may cause severe complications that can be life-threatening.

Febrile non-hemolytic transfusion reactions and allergic reactions are comparatively more common than other complications that can cause difficulty in breathing, fever, nausea, and vomiting. 

Transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) and transfusion-associated circulatory overload (TACO) are two complications that can affect respiratory symptoms causing shortness of breath. 

Infections are another major complication one may face due to blood transfusion; however, the tests are done before to avoid infections like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, and West Nile virus. 

It’s important to note that these risks are relatively rare than the benefits of a blood transfusion. The benefits outweigh the risks for people who need them. Healthcare providers carefully analyze a person’s medical history and needs while recommending whether a blood transfusion is appropriate and safe for them.


Blood transfusion is referred to as a medical procedure in which blood is transferred from a donor to a recipient. It is an essential treatment for people with certain medical conditions, such as severe bleeding, anemia, and cancer.

The risks associated with transfusions include:

  • Allergic reactions.
  • Febrile non-hemolytic transfusion reactions.
  • Transfusion-related acute lung injury.
  • Transfusion-associated circulatory overload.
  • Infections.
  • Iron overload.

Despite these risks, blood transfusions are lifesaving for people with severe medical conditions. Physicians carefully undergo a person’s medical history and needs and recommend transfusions. 

Overall, blood transfusion is a critical medical intervention that has the potential to save countless lives and will continue to play a crucial role in healthcare in the future.

Dr. Irfan Siddique is a GMC-registered Medical Doctor with more than four years of post-graduation experience in child and adolescent healthcare. He has done his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from the University of Health and Sciences, Lahore. Afterward, he was positioned at Children’s Hospital, Faisalabad, where he ran Outpatient Department for four years. Currently, he is performing his duties as Medical Doctor at St. Barts Health NHS Trust, London.