What You Should Know about Blood Transfusion

By Dr. Okechukwu Amako, MBBS (Ibadan)
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Have you received or donated blood before? The normal functions of the human body depend on having the right quantity of everything blood circulating throughout the body.

When the quantity of blood in circulation falls below a certain level and the body doesn't quickly replenish the lost volume of blood, the amount of oxygen being distributed to the body's cells and tissues falls significantly. If this lingers, the person can pass out due to an inadequate supply of oxygen to the brain; the kidneys will respond by reducing the amount of urine produced by the person and with time can suffer what is known as an acute injury. If the bleeding is massive and prolonged and nothing is done (for instance, a woman bleeding excessively for days after childbirth, a person shot multiple times in the chest and abdomen or someone involved in a terrible road traffic accident), the affected individual will bleed to death.

Blood transfusion is basically replacing the lost volume of blood in an individual who has lost a significant amount of blood as described above. Other conditions that require a blood transfusion include patients undergoing major surgical operations associated with massive blood loss such as amputation (surgical cutting of legs in diabetic patients whose feet or legs have been affected by the disease). People with sickle cell disease also need blood transfusion periodically as their red blood cells are faulty and hence have a short lifespan compared to people without the disease: this means their red blood cells die prematurely and faster than the rate at which new ones are produced by their bone marrow.

If you're undergoing a surgical operation in which you may need to be transfused with blood in the process or after, someone may have to donate blood for you or you can buy the required number of pints of blood from the hospital's blood bank. In any case, the blood you will be transfused with:

-must be compatible with your blood group, meaning it must come from someone with same blood group and rhesus type (either positive or negative)

-the blood must have been screened for HIV, hepatitis B and C viruses and other viruses, malaria parasites, and many other disease-causing microorganisms that can be contracted through blood contact or transfusion

-a sample of your blood will be taken and mixed with a sample of the blood you will be receiving (either the one from the blood bank or the blood donated by a friend or family member) to check for any reactions such as destruction of the donor's red blood cells

-the blood bag will also be inspected to ensure the details on its label match those from your blood type.

It is possible for your body to react after being transfused with blood even when the blood type given is exactly the same with your blood group. These reactions include generalized body itching and fever which is due to the body's response to the white blood cells in the blood you received. Talk to your doctor if you experience any of these after being transfused with blood.

However, if the wrong blood was transfused, your immune system will attack the red blood cells from the donor's blood. Hence, if you start having fever, chest and back pain, begin to feel like vomiting and your urine colour becomes dark, quickly report to your doctor for immediate medical attention.

On the other hand, those who voluntarily donate blood (everyone is encouraged to donate blood as it saves lives) are usually screened for the above diseases before they can donate. Healthy individuals can safely donate a pint of whole blood about 4 times a year with at least 12 weeks between each donation.

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For more advice and help, consult a doctor.
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Published Friday, May 5th 2017

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