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Blood transfusion

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What is a blood transfusion?

A blood transfusion is a medical procedure in which donated blood is given to you. It is a safe procedure and can be life-saving. If complications occur, they are typically mild.


Why might I need a blood transfusion?

You might need a blood transfusion if:

  • you have lost a lot of blood because of surgery, childbirth or a serious accident
  • you have severe anaemia (a lack of red blood cells) which cannot be treated in any other way
  • you are having cancer treatment or stem cell transplants which affect your blood cell count

This video from the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood also explains why someone might need a blood transfusion:


Make sure you talk to your doctor about why you might need a transfusion. Also ask them if there are any alternatives to blood transfusion – there often are.

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What are the risks in having a blood transfusion?

Australia has one of the safest blood supplies in the world. But as with all medical procedures, a blood transfusion is not free from risk.

The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood collects blood from voluntary donors. The donated blood is then carefully checked to make sure it doesn't contain blood-borne diseases that could cause serious infections such as hepatitis and HIV. You can read more about the National Blood Authority Australia’s policy on Safety of Blood Products here.  

You will also have careful identification checks before the transfusion to make sure you receive the right blood type.

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What are the different types of blood transfusion?

Donated blood can be split into different parts. You will be given the part or parts of the blood your body needs. This could be:

  • the red blood cells — to carry oxygen to tissues and organs
  • platelets — to help stop bleeding
  • plasma — for blood clotting factors (which help stop bleeding), along with other proteins and antibodies

What happens during a blood transfusion?

Before a non-urgent blood transfusion, you will be asked to sit or lie down. A needle will be inserted into your arm or hand. An intravenous drip (also known as an IV) will be connected to the needle and the blood will be given to you slowly via the drip.

It could take up to 4 hours to receive one bag of blood. During that time, the medical staff will carefully monitor your blood pressure, pulse and temperature at regular intervals.

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How will I feel during and after the transfusion?

Most people feel fine during their blood transfusion, although some say they feel cold or feverish.

The medical or nursing staff will be monitoring you closely during your infusion, so if you start to feel unwell let them know.

See your doctor urgently or go to the nearest hospital emergency department if you start to feel very unwell within 24 hours of having a blood transfusion. This is especially important if you have difficulty breathing or pain in your chest or back.


Can I refuse a transfusion?

Yes, you have the right to refuse a blood transfusion for any reason, including cultural or religious reasons. You should let your doctor know your wishes and carry details with you at all times explaining your wishes in case of an emergency.

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Last reviewed: June 2019


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Need more information?

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Top results

Blood transfusion | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is a blood transfusion? A blood transfusion is a way of giving a small amount of one person’s blood to another person who needs it

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Blood donations - myDr.com.au

Are you eligible to donate blood? What are blood donations used for? What happens during a blood transfusion? Answers to common questions about blood donations and transfusions.

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Before a transfusion | Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

Treatment with blood transfusion is carefully considered in discussion with your doctor. Find out more about your condition and treatment options to make an informed decision about your transfusion.

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Donating blood | Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

Lifeblood collects blood from voluntary, non-remunerated donors at both fixed and mobile collection centres across Australia to ensure our blood supplies can meet the needs of patients who require blood transfusions.

Read more on Australian Red Cross Lifeblood website

Cancer | Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

Cancer can result in the need for a transfusion for a number of reasons including surgery, side effects of chemotherapy and as a result of the cancer itself.

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Blood group testing - Lab Tests Online AU

Blood group testing: how it is used, when it is requested and what does the test result mean?

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Platelet | Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

Platelet transfusion may be required if you have a low platelet count (thrombocytopaenia). Platelets assist with forming blood clots.

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