What is a blood transfusion?

A blood transfusion is a common procedure where donated blood or blood components from a volunteer donor are given through an intravenous line (IV) to a patient to replace blood and blood components that may be too low. The patient may have low blood levels due to blood loss from injury or surgery, or as a result of a certain medical disorder.

The transfusion is done with one or more of the following parts of blood: red blood cells, platelets, plasma, or cryoprecipitate.

Are there any alternatives to a blood transfusion?

Available alternatives and how well they work will depend on your situation. If you need a transfusion, sometimes medications can be used to help your body to make its own blood. Some medications may also be used to prevent or control bleeding.

If the blood loss is too great, or if you are in a potentially life-threatening situation, these alternatives may not work quickly enough to help you. In these instances, there are no other options except for receiving the transfusion.

You do have the right to refuse a blood transfusion that your doctor has ordered. You must be aware of the risks and consequences of not accepting the transfusion. As a patient, you have the responsibility to discuss this with your physician before making your decision. Very often, the risks of not receiving a transfusion include loss of life or permanent disability.