A blood transfusion is a relatively simple medical procedure during which a patient receives whole blood or one of its parts through an intravenous line, or IV. This is a tiny tube that is inserted into a vein using a small needle.
While patients are likely to notice a brief pinch of the needle, a blood transfusion is relatively painless. Still, any procedure that involves a needle is likely to cause some anxiety for a child, so it helps to understand how a transfusion is done. That way you can feel confident about what is happening and help put your child at ease.
About Blood Transfusions
Blood is like the body's transportation system. As blood circulates, it delivers oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. It also collects waste products and carries them to the organs responsible for making sure the wastes leave the body.
Whole blood is a mixture of cells and liquid, and each part has a specific job:
- Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body's tissues and remove carbon dioxide.
- White blood cells help defend the body against infection by producing antibodies, which help destroy foreign germs in the body.
- Platelets are cell fragments that assist in clotting, which helps to prevent and control bleeding.
- Plasma is the liquid part of whole blood and contains a mixture of water, proteins, electrolytes, carbohydrates, cholesterol, hormones, and vitamins.
A blood transfusion can make up for a loss of blood or any part of the blood. Although whole blood can be transfused, it is rarely used. Instead, more specific parts of blood are transfused as needed. Red blood cells, the most commonly transfused part, are used to increase the blood's ability to carry oxygen and prevent fatigue and other complications.
Transfusions take 1 to 4 hours, depending on how much blood and what type is given, and no special recovery time is needed.
Most transfusions are done in a hospital, but can be done elsewhere when necessary. In most cases, the blood comes from volunteer donors. The blood of the donor, which is carefully screened to ensure its safety, must match the blood of the person receiving it.
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