By Foluke Akinwalere. Freelance Health Writer and DLHA volunteer. With medical review and editorial support by the DLHA Team
Welcome to a journey that unravels 10 common facts of one of the most crucial aspects of modern medicine - Blood Transfusion.
Blood transfusion is a medical procedure of administering blood or blood components into a patient’s bloodstream to replace deficient or lacking components due to medical conditions, surgeries, or injuries.
This can include whole blood or specific components like red blood cells, plasma, platelets, or clotting factors, depending on the needs of the patients. Blood transfusion saves lives and improves health.
This presentation will guide you through this life saving practice. From the basics of blood typing and compatibility to future innovations, each slide will shed light on the essential aspects of blood transfusion and provide a comprehensive understanding of its importance in healthcare.
So, keep reading!
Blood types are determined by the presence or absence of certain antigens, which are on the surface of red blood cells. They are what make the blood type either compatible or incompatible with other blood types.
The two key factors in blood compatibility are:
1. The ABO blood group system classifies blood into four major types: A, B, AB, and O. The antigens in the ABO blood group are sugars.
2. Rh factor (Rhesus factor) categorises blood as Rh D-positive and Rh D-negative. The antigens in the Rh factor are proteins.
To ensure safe transfusion, matching the donor’s and receiver’s blood types is crucial. A mismatch can trigger an immune reaction, and lead to serious complications.
The four types of blood transfusion are:
The specific type of transfusion administered depends on the medical condition and components of blood needed to address it.
Blood transfusions are often necessary during the treatment of various medical disorders with associated low blood components or in situations where there is significant loss of blood. Some common needs for blood transfusion include:
Informed consent is a fundamental ethical principle in healthcare, and its importance extends to blood transfusions.
Before undergoing a blood transfusion, the patients will be provided with detailed information about the procedure, potential risks, benefits, and alternatives. This is to ensure that the patient has a clear understanding of what the transfusion entails and can make an informed decision about his medical care.
The importance of informed consent lies in its role as a cornerstone of patient-centred care, upholding principles of autonomy, transparency, and trust in the medical relationship.
Blood transfusion is typically conducted in a hospital or clinic setting where a carefully arranged set of procedures and protocols are followed to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the process.
The physician or phlebotomist (a technical specialist in intravenous procedures) inserts a needle into a vein in the arm of the patient to allow the donated blood or components to flow directly into the bloodstream through an intravenous (IV) line or catheter at a determined rate.
The transfusion may last one to four hours depending on the required amount and type of blood components. The key steps in the process include:
Continuous visual observation of the patient during and after blood transfusion is vital. It allows healthcare providers to promptly identify and respond to any adverse reactions or complications that may arise. The patient must be closely observed for the first 15 minutes of each pack and at least hourly throughout the transfusion.
Monitoring involves checking vital signs such as pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and respiration rate.
The key benefits of monitoring include:
Blood transfusion is a life-saving medical procedure, but still comes with risks.
There are multiple complications of blood transfusions, including:
Feverish reactions are the most common, followed by transfusion-associated circulatory overload, allergic reaction, TRALI, hepatitis C viral infection, hepatitis B viral infection, HIV, and fatal hemolysis which is extremely rare, only occurring almost 1 in 2 million transfuse units of RBCs.
A combination of meticulous screening, careful handling, continuous monitoring, and a well-trained healthcare team play crucial roles in preventing blood transfusion risks.
Blood donation is a vital process that contributes to saving lives and sustaining healthcare practices. Safe blood donation ensures that the collected blood is free from infections and compatible with receivers.
Eligibility criteria are established to safeguard the health of both donors and receivers.
To donate blood, the donors must:
Donors undergo a stringent screening process which involves a detailed questionnaire covering health status, travel history, and lifestyle factors. The information helps to identify potential risk factors for bloodborne infections.
Around 118.5 million blood donations are collected globally every year according to the World Health Organization. These donations are vital for a variety of medical interventions and treatments.
The WHO earmarked 2012 for Nigeria (and possibly Sub-Saharan Africa) to meet the demand for safe, available, and sustainable transfusion needs by using well-implemented transfusion policies.
In 2013 WHO recorded that 122 out of 167 countries had national blood transfusion policies, with 41% of low-income and 64% of middle-income countries having specific legislation in this regard.
But recently, studies have shown that some progress has been made and 90.2% of African countries had a blood policy while 73.2% had a national guideline on the clinical use of blood in their country.
The global impact of blood transfusion is profound, touching the lives of individuals across diverse healthcare scenarios. Recognising the significance of blood donation, addressing supply challenges, and promoting awareness collectively will pave the way for a more effective and efficient blood transfusion network within Africa and globally.
The future of blood transfusion is remarkable for groundbreaking advancements driven by new technologies.
Several innovative approaches are reshaping the landscape of blood transfusion, enhancing safety, efficiency, and overall efficacy in the following areas among others:
These advancements signify a promising outlook towards safer, more efficient, and personalised blood transfusion practices.
It is clear that knowledge is key to ensuring the safety and effectiveness of blood transfusion. Each fact underscores not only the complexity of the process but also the intricate balance required for successful transfusions.
Whether you are a potential donor, a healthcare professional, or someone who may need a transfusion one day, being aware of the general process of blood transfusion is a step towards appreciating the significance of this life-saving practice. It is a reminder that every donation, every transfusion, plays a crucial role in preserving and enhancing the quality of life.
1. LifeBlood Transfusion Process: Monitoring and Observation Accessed on November 21, 2023.
2. Seth Lotterman; Sandeep Sharma, Blood Transfusion, National Library of Medicine, June 20, 2023.
3. World Health Organization Blood Transfusion June 8, 2022. Accessed on November 20, 2023.
4. Ugwu AO, Madu AJ, Anigbogu IO, Blood transfusion in Sub-Saharan African: Historical perspective, clinical drivers of demand and strategies for increasing availability African Journal Online 2021, Vol. 23 No. 1
Published: November 29, 2023
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