Transfusion is the process of transferring blood or blood products through the vein of a patient. This is usually done when there is blood loss due to accidents or surgery, or when the body is not capable of blood production as a result of illness. The different types of transfusions include red blood cell (RBC) transfusion, plasma transfusion, platelet transfusion, and blood-clotting factor transfusion. Transfusions of antibodies and white blood cells (WBCs) may also be done. Another type of transfusion is called autologous transfusion.
In autologous transfusion, the blood or blood components being transferred to the patient mostly came from him. This is usually done when the patient who is about to undergo surgery chooses to use his own blood in case blood loss occurs during surgery. His blood is often extracted several days before the surgery, and is kept in the laboratory. One advantage of this type of transfusion is the elimination of transfusion reactions and transmission of infections that can sometimes occur when using blood that comes from a donor. Autologous transfusion, however, is mostly done for non-emergency situations.
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Blood-component transfusions are usually the most common type performed. Patients with disorders in platelet or blood-clotting factor production are often given platelet or blood-clotting factor transfusions. Individuals with decreased platelets or blood-clotting factor are often prone to bleeding problems. Plasma, the liquid part of blood, may also be used in patients with clotting-factor deficiencies.
WBCs are important in the body's defense against infection. When these cells are deficient or are not functioning properly, severe infections can occur, which can frequently lead to life-threatening complications. A WBC transfusion may help individuals with extremely reduced WBCs. Antibodies are also immune system cells capable of directly fighting disease agents causing rabies, chickenpox, and hepatitis. Transfusions using specific antibodies are often given to patients who have been exposed to any of these conditions.
Red blood cell (RBC) transfusions are often performed in cases of bleeding and when there is inadequate production of RBC from the bone marrow, which is the spongy section of large bones. Patients with severe anemia, or decreased RBC, often need this type of transfusion to restore the number of RBC to relieve their symptoms. Symptoms include frequent fatigue, paleness, rapid heart rate, and sometimes, hair loss.