Different transfusion guidelines protect patients from tainted blood products and provide medical personnel with procedures to determine when a blood transfusion is needed. Transfusion guidelines also analyze the patient’s condition to measure what type of blood product he or she needs. The blood type of the patient and donor, clotting factors, and the patient’s general health come under transfusion guidelines used by medical personnel.
Donated blood is typically divided into three parts, and whole blood is not typically administered during transfusions. Plasma makes up 55 percent of total blood volume. The balance consists of red and white blood cells and platelets. Transfusion guidelines generally call for one component of whole blood or a combination of one or more products.
Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. Cancer treatment, anemia, and other disorders can deplete the quantity of red blood cells, depriving tissues and organs of vital oxygen. Patients with these conditions commonly receive a transfusion of red blood cells to boost oxygen levels that aid healing.
Platelets are made in bone marrow and assist the clotting properties of blood. In situations where blood does not clot normally, excessive bleeding can quickly become an emergency. Transfusion guidelines sometimes call for platelet transfusions in patients with leukemia and disorders of the spleen. These conditions generate too many white blood cells, reducing the blood’s ability to clot properly.
Plasma also contains clotting properties and may be given to a patient in combination with platelets. After a donor gives blood, the plasma is frozen to keep it fresh for later use. It is thawed before a patient receives it.
Transfusion guidelines require screening for viruses that can be transmitted from the donor to the recipient. The donor is also screened for bacterial infection and is prohibited from giving blood if any infection exists. The risk of contracting a disease from a blood transfusion is rare, and typically the risk of not receiving blood outweighs the risk associated with a transfusion.
Emergency room doctors and nurses use additional transfusion guidelines when extreme blood loss creates a life-threatening situation. They are charged with making quick decisions on whether to test the patient’s blood type and screen for antibodies in donor blood. In a critical incident where time is crucial, a doctor can order O-negative blood to replace excessive blood loss. This type of blood is considered a universal product compatible with all other types, but it is rare and often in scant supply.