Blood Transfusion: What to Know Before Getting One
How long does it take to undergo a blood transfusion?
Blood transfusions typically take at least an hour and up to four hours in some cases. During a blood transfusion, blood from a donor is given to a patient via an intravenous line. In some cases, a person may receive their blood if collected previously.
An individual may need regular transfusions depending on the type of medical condition they are suffering from. Medical guidelines suggest that a typical blood transfusion should generally take a few hours but not exceed four hours. This prevents the blood from becoming unsafe and damaged.
If you have an emergency condition, the transfusion may occur more quickly than average. This can be a lifesaver if you lose more blood than you should. For example, surgeries or injuries that cause much blood flow can become emergencies.
What happens during a blood transfusion?
Before the transfusion
If you have a chronic medical condition, your healthcare provider will order a test known as a complete blood count. A complete blood count aims to determine whether you need a transfusion or not. It takes just a couple of minutes to draw blood for this test. The results are usually ready within a few hours to a couple of days.
If the patient faces an emergency, the doctor will most likely act before evaluating the test result.
Once it is ascertained that you need a blood transfusion, your doctor will draw another blood sample. This will be sent to the laboratory for blood typing and crossing. This test doesn’t take more than a few minutes. Very few things are as important as knowing your blood type. Knowing your blood type will help you ensure that the blood your doctor is giving you is a match.
What happens after blood typing?
Your healthcare provider will check your identity to ensure that you receive the right blood. If an IV hasn’t already been inserted, your doctor will start an IV line. The blood will be administered through this line.
What happens during the first 15 minutes of transfusion?
A nurse will be assigned to your bedside for the first 15 minutes of transfusion. This is necessary because most reactions with blood transfusions if they happen, occur immediately. Such reactions include:
If you experience these symptoms, the transfusion will be stopped without delay.
One to four hours in the transfusion
If you’ve not reacted, the nurse may cause the transfusion to go faster. However, if you have an underlying condition that affects the maintenance of fluid balance in your body, like congestive heart failure, the transfusion may not occur as fast as it should.
While the transfusion is going on, your healthcare provider will check your vital signs at intervals. Vital signs commonly checked to include:
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
What happens when the blood transfusion goes beyond four hours?
If your bleeding is continuous, the transfusion will last as long as the bleeding lasts. If there’s bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract or you are losing blood during surgery, your healthcare provider will attempt to replace as much blood as you’ve lost.
When does the effect of a blood transfusion show up?
Feeling the effects of a blood transfusion depends on several factors, including:
- Your overall health
- The amount of blood in your body before the transfusion
- The reason for the transfusion
You’ll begin to feel better immediately after the transfusion because your blood will be able to function optimally. Doctors usually order a follow-up CBC at least an hour after the transfusion to determine how the transfusion helped you.
If you have a condition that causes a lot of blood loss, such as gastrointestinal bleeding, your doctor will need to treat the underlying cause of your situation before you can feel the full effects of the transfusions.
It is also important to note that while most transfusion reactions will be immediate, there are long-term risks associated with blood transfusions. Your healthcare provider will monitor you for both.
Do transfusion treatments last long?
Blood transfusions are designed to support your body until your health condition subsides and your body can restart blood production. A healthy body produces millions of new cells every minute. The duration of the treatment depends on the reason for the transfusions.
Your healthcare provider will continue with the transfusions to help maintain the right amount of blood in your body. If the underlying problem can be corrected, your body will ideally take over. You obviously won’t need further transfusions from there.
Tonika Bruce, also known as The Network Nurse, is a multi-talented individual with a career spanning over 20 years. She’s a Registered Nurse, speaker, author, and advocate for change, excelling in business building and team development. Tonika holds two Master’s degrees in Nursing and Business Administration, (MSN & MBA) and is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Nursing Practice in Executive Leadership.
Her expertise extends to various fields such as nursing, entrepreneurship, business, basketball coaching, and executive leadership. She is a published author of “Relentless Pursuit: Proven Tips for Unlocking Your Potentials, Limitless Success and Post COVID Syndrome: A Guide to Repositioning the Nursing Profession for A Post COVID Era”. Currently, Tonika is working on Thrudemic, an anthology examining the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on medical professionals and patients. To learn more, please visit www.thrudemic.com.
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