Benefits and Risks of Blood Transfusion for Patients, This is What You Must Know!

Blood transfusion is an important medical intervention procedure and can save lives for people who need it. This procedure is carried out by giving blood or blood products from a donor to the patient (recipient) via an intravenous route. Blood transfusions are generally carried out to replace the patient's blood lost due to certain conditions, such as bleeding, injury, or to increase the patient's blood volume due to other medical conditions. Donors will go through a series of health checks to ensure that the blood they donate is free from disease. Blood can be given whole or only blood components, for example red blood cells, blood plasma, cryoprecipitate, albumin and platelets. The blood transfusion process generally takes 1-4 hours.

Like other medical procedures, blood transfusions have their own benefits and risks. Various benefits can be obtained for patients who receive blood transfusions, but it does not rule out the possibility that this procedure can also carry risks if it is not carried out or monitored carefully. So, what are the benefits and risks?

Benefits of Blood Transfusion

Blood transfusions have many significant medical benefits, especially in critical situations or for long-term treatment of patients with certain medical conditions. Following are some of the main benefits of blood transfusion:

  1. Replaces lost blood volume
    Blood transfusions can help treat critical medical situations when a person loses a lot of blood due to injury, accident, surgery, or severe bleeding. Some major operations can cause significant anemia, so blood transfusions may be necessary to support recovery.
  2. Overcoming anemia
    Blood transfusions can be performed in patients with severe anemia, especially those that cannot be treated with iron supplements or other medications. In this case, blood transfusion aims to increase the patient's red blood cell count.
  3. Treat blood disorders
    Blood clotting disorders such as hemophilia, low platelet levels (thrombocytopenia), thalassemia, or sickle cell disease can be treated with blood transfusions. To help blood clot and prevent bleeding, hemophilia sufferers will receive plasma or cryoprecipitate, while thrombocytopenia sufferers will receive platelet transfusions.
  4. Supports cancer care
    Cancer and its various treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can affect the production of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Therefore, blood transfusions are generally needed to meet the patient's blood needs.
  5. Overcoming pregnancy complications
    Blood transfusions can save the lives of mothers who experience heavy bleeding after giving birth. Blood transfusions can also improve the health of the mother and fetus, especially treating anemia in pregnant women by providing the blood they need.
  6. Overcoming chronic kidney and autoimmune diseases
    Patients with chronic kidney disease often experience anemia or anemia, so they may benefit from blood transfusions. Blood transfusions can also help in reducing the symptoms and complications of autoimmune diseases that affect blood production.

Blood Transfusion Risks

Even though it has many benefits, blood transfusions have several risks or side effects. Therefore, this procedure needs to be carried out with appropriate medical consideration and supervision. The following are the risks that can arise from blood transfusions:

  1. Allergic reaction
    Patients who receive blood transfusions may experience allergic reactions, both mild allergies such as itching or rashes on the skin, and severe allergies such as anaphylaxis. Anaphylactic reactions are characterized by complaints of swelling of the lips and eyes, dizziness, vomiting, palpitations, cold sweat, restlessness, weakness, chest pain, shortness of breath, shock, and even loss of consciousness. Allergies can occur when the patient experiences a reaction to certain proteins or substances contained in the donor's blood.
  2. Fever
    After several hours of receiving a blood transfusion, the patient may experience a feverish reaction. This happens often and is not always dangerous. However, if fever is accompanied by other symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, fainting, or coma, this condition requires immediate medical treatment by a doctor.
  3. Infection
    Generally, the blood donation process is strictly monitored. Blood products that will be given for transfusion have also been tested to ensure the blood is of good quality and does not contain certain viruses, germs or parasites.
    However, there is a small risk that the examination carried out will not be able to detect the disease accurately, so that the patient could contract diseases such as HIV or hepatitis B.
  4. Excess fluid and iron
    Blood transfusions can cause excess fluid in the body, causing symptoms such as shortness of breath, weakness, and chest pain. Apart from that, blood transfusions can also cause the blood in the body to have excess iron, especially if the amount of blood given is very large.
  5. Hemolysis reaction
    Post-transfusion reactions do not always appear immediately. Hemolysis reactions can appear several days after the procedure, so patients must pay attention if there are symptoms of yellow skin, dark urine, accompanied by a feeling of weakness, they must immediately see a doctor.

Blood transfusions have many benefits for patients, especially in treating certain diseases and medical conditions. However, behind that, this procedure can also pose risks. Consult your doctor about the benefits and risks that this procedure may have for your condition. If you experience complaints after receiving a blood transfusion, immediately consult a doctor to get appropriate treatment.

Article written by dr. Patriotika Ismail, Sp.PD (Specialist in Internal Medicine at EMC Cikarang Hospital).