by Amy Scholten, MPH
A blood transfusion is when blood is given through a vein. The blood comes from a donor.
For planned procedures, some people have their blood drawn at an earlier date and stored until the transfusion is needed.
Reasons for Procedure
A blood transfusion raises the level of blood cells or other specific blood products. It may be given for:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
A blood test will be done to find your blood type. The donor blood will be matched to your blood type.
Allergy medicine may be given before the transfusion. This will lower the risk of a reaction.
Description of the Procedure
You will be seated. A bag with blood product will be hung nearby. An IV needle will be placed into a vein in your hand or arm. The blood product will drip from the bag through the tube into your vein. The needle will be taken out when the bag is empty.
How Long Will It Take?
About 2 to 4 hours
Will It Hurt?
Discomfort is common at the needle insertion site. It will go away quickly.
At the Care Center
After the procedure, the staff may:
Most people are able to resume normal activity levels.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Association of Blood Banks
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Blood Services
Blood transfusion. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-transfusion. Accessed January 12, 2021.
Blood transfusion process. American Red Cross website. Available at: https://www.redcrossblood.org/learn-about-blood/blood-transfusions/the-process. Accessed January 12, 2021.
Goel R, Chappidi M, et. al. Trends in red blood cell, plasma, and platelet transfusions in the United States, 1993-2014. JAMA. 2018;319(8):825-827.
Red blood cell transfusion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/red-blood-cell-transfusion. Accessed January 12, 2021.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 1/12/2021
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.