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Support Services: Blood Transfusion

What is a Blood Transfusion?
A Blood Transfusion is a life saving intervention. Used worldwide, it means giving a patient red blood cells, platelets or plasma through a ‘drip’ via a small needle. The transfusion takes from two to four hours and is not painful. Your doctor will explain the procedure to you and ask you for your verbal consent. Your pre-operative general written consent for theatre includes tests and actions performed in your best interest, including a blood transfusion if required.

Common reasons for blood transfusions are:

  • Anaemia: Anaemia, which has many different causes, happens when your body does not have enough red cells to carry the oxygen you need. As a result, you will feel tired and breathless. It is often possible to treat anaemia with medicines and vitamins but blood transfusion may also be necessary.
  • Blood Loss: This can be due to surgery or an injury. Small amounts of blood loss can be replaced by solutions of salt or glucose or by the use of synthetic substances. The sudden loss of a larger amount of blood – which can be dangerous – will need to be replaced by blood transfusion.
  • Clotting or Bleeding Disorder: Platelets are obtained from donated blood, and are used in the treatment of some clotting / bleeding disorders.

Steps taken to ensure that the donated blood is safe
In Ireland healthy volunteers donate all blood. Donated blood is carefully screened to prevent the transmission of infection via transfusion. Careful checks are carried out to make sure that the donated blood is correctly matched to your own.

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