Benefits & Risks of Blood Transfusion

What are the benefits of blood transfusion?

Blood transfusion can save a patient’s life and limit the complications of severe blood loss.

  • A lot of bleeding can lead to a seriously low hemoglobin level and cause damage to body organs due to a lack of oxygen.
  • If bleeding continues the body’s supply of platelets and plasma are also decreased. Then, blood cannot clot and bleeding will not stop.

Blood transfusion benefits patients by treating or preventing these situations.


What are the risks of blood transfusion?

Canada’s blood supply is one of the safest in the world but blood can never be risk-free. In Canada, the risk of transfusion-transmitted disease for each unit of blood is:

  • HIV (AIDS) about 1 in 21.4 million
  • Hepatitis C about 1 in 12.6 million
  • Hepatitis B about 1 in 7.5 million

Other risks of blood transfusion are:

  • Hemolytic reactions: the patient's own blood destroys the transfused blood. This is due to a human error. Careful patient identification steps are followed to make sure the correct blood is given.
  • Bacterial infection (highest with platelet transfusions).

Side-effects could include: itching, skin rash, fever, or feeling cold. More serious side effects such as trouble breathing are very rare.

Blood transfusions are very carefully matched to the patient’s blood type but transfused blood is not identical to your blood. Transfused blood can also have effects on your immune system.

If you have had a blood transfusion and are feeling unwell, be sure to tell your nurse or doctor.