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Blood Transfusions

(757) 668-7000

Your child’s doctor has decided that your child needs a transfusion of blood or blood products. Your child’s doctor will explain to you the reasons for the transfusion.

All about blood:

Human blood is made of fluid called plasma that carries red and white blood cells and platelets. Each part of blood has special functions and can be separated from each other. All of the blood cells are made in the bone marrow. Adults have 10-12 pints of blood and children have less because they are smaller.

Platelets help control bleeding by covering blood vessels opened by injury or surgery. The body may not be able to make enough platelets because of bone marrow disorders, increased destruction of platelets, or medicines such as chemotherapy. If platelets drop too low (called thrombocytopenia) or bleeding is uncontrolled, platelets may be given.

Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to other body organs and then carry carbon dioxide back to the lungs. A certain number of these cells are needed for the body to function. If the red blood cell (RBC) count drops too low (called anemia), a transfusion of red blood cells may be given. A low RBC count may be caused by bleeding due to accident, surgery or disease. Also, the body may not be able to make enough red blood cells because of disease or treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

White blood cells fight infections by destroying bacteria, viruses and other germs. A white blood cell transfusion is rarely used to treat severe infections when the white blood cell count is very low.

Plasma carries the blood cells throughout the body and contains proteins, vitamins and minerals. Some of the proteins help the blood to clot. Plasma may be used to treat uncontrolled bleeding.

Cryoprecipitate is a special part of the plasma which has been frozen.

Factor VIII & Factor IX concentrates are dry purified products which are used to treat Hemophilia A (Factor VIII deficiency) and Hemophilia B (Factor IX deficiency). Factor VIII concentrates are made from a special genetic technology. There may be instances when plasma derived Factor VIII or IX concentrates may be used.

Intravenous gamma globulin is a special preparation used to treat deficiencies of certain antibodies needed to fight infection and to treat other medical problems.

Humate - P is a purified plasma derived product that is used to treat certain types of von Willebrand disease.

There are other blood products which may be used. Your child's doctor will discuss these with you if they are needed.

Safety of Transfusions:

The blood used at the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters is from the American Red Cross. Donors are not paid for giving blood or blood products. Each blood donor must answer medical history questions and is given a limited physical exam before he/she is accepted as a donor. The donated blood is carefully tested for hepatitis, syphilis, and antibody to two human immunodeficiency viruses, including the AIDS (acquired human immune deficiency) virus. These tests decrease the chances of transfusion related infections, but no test can screen for infectious agents 100% of the time.

How blood is transfused:

Blood is collected and stored in sterile bags. The bags are used once and then thrown away. Before blood is given to your child, it is cross-matched with his/her own blood to make sure it is compatible. The blood will be given through a needle or catheter placed in a vein. Your child’s temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate will be checked many times while the blood is being given. It may take a few hours to complete the process.

What is autologous blood transfusion?

Most transfusions are done using volunteer donor blood, but a patient may choose to use his/her own blood for transfusion. This is called an autologous blood transfusion. A child must weigh about 90 pounds for autologous donation. Most children are not big enough to donate blood for themselves.

What is directed donation?

A directed or designated blood donation is one in which a person donates blood that is reserved (at the time of donation) for the transfusion of a specific patient at a later date. The donor is usually a family member or close friend who has been chosen by the patient’s family. Talk with your child’s doctor if you are interested in learning more about directed donation. It is recommended that families donate in the child’s name versus directed donation, because if directed blood is not needed it is wasted.

Are directed donors safer than voluteer donors?

There is no proof that directed donors are safer than volunteer donors. Many directed donors have never donated blood before, and so, have not been proven (by repeated donations) to be free of infectious risks. Directed donor blood is screened in the same way as volunteer blood for all infectious agents. Not all directed donor blood will be compatible with the patient’s blood.

What are the special problems of directed donations from biologic parents and close relatives for children of any age?

If a bone marrow or other organ transplant is needed in the future, there is a chance that the child will have developed antibodies and have a less successful transplant.

Risks of blood transfusions:

Most transfusions are done without any problems. There may be a slight bruise or swelling where the needle or catheter is placed. Mild side effects may include headache, fever, itching, or rash. Serious reactions are rare. The most common is serum hepatitis, an infection of the liver. Other adverse effects may include Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), cytomegalovirus (CMV), acute hemolytic reaction, and severe allergic reaction. Transfusion with blood of the wrong type can be fatal, but is highly unlikely to occur.

When to call your child's doctor:

If you see any of the following symptoms, call the doctor listed below and follow his/her instructions. If you are not able to reach this doctor, you may return to the Emergency Department.

Immediate Effects (Within 24 hours)

  1. Fever above 100 degrees F.
  2. Chills
  3. Swelling around eyes and mouth
  4. Rash with itching
  5. Nausea and/or vomiting
  6. Shortness of breath
  7. Abdominal, back, or chest pain
  8. Bloody or dark brown urine
  9. Greatly decreased urine output

Delayed Effects (within 2 weeks)

  1. Yellow color of skin and eyes
  2. Bloody or dark brown urine
  3. Greatly decreased urine output
  4. Excessive tiredness which does not improve with rest
  5. Swollen joints
  6. Skin rash

Referred to Dr. __________________________ for follow-up care.

Address: ___________________________________________

Telephone: __________________________________________


Disclaimer:This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 02/07

(757) 668-7000

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