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Blood Transfusion

You may need a blood transfusion due to side effects of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery. In some cases the cancer itself may make a transfusion necessary. Below is an explanation of two types of blood products. Remember, not every cancer patient will need a transfusion. If you need a blood transfusion, the health care staff will answer any questions at that time.

Packed Red Blood Cells

The red blood cell is the part of blood that carries oxygen to all parts of the body. A low red blood cell count is called Anemia, Hemoglobin (Hgb.) and/or Hematocrit (Hct.). Levels are also looked at when measuring red blood cell counts. If your blood counts are low, or you have symptoms of anemia, your doctor may want you to have a blood transfusion.

  • The blood will come from a donor and be carefully screened.
  • Packed red blood cells are given for a decreased hemoglobin level and are called "units."
  • You must be "typed and cross-matched" prior to receiving blood. This test is only good for 72 hours.
  • This test takes a minimum of one hour to complete by the lab.
  • Each "unit" of packed red blood cells takes about two hours to infuse. 
  • Your blood may be filtered, leukocyte (white blood cell) poor and/or irradiated depending on your doctor's orders.
  • You may be given medications prior to receiving blood if you have had a reaction to blood in the past.
  • Let your nurse know if you develop chills, hives, aches, shortness of breath, or any other problem that occurs during or after your transfusion.

Platelets

The platelet is the part of the blood that helps you form a clot and stop bleeding. A low platelet count is called Thrombocytopenia. If you have a low platelet count or bleeding, your doctor may want you to have a platelet transfusion.

  • Platelets may come from multiple or single donors and are carefully screened.
  • Platelet transfusions are given for a low platelet count or bleeding.
  • You must be "typed" prior to receiving platelets for the first time and every six months after that.
  • You may receive random or single donor platelets.
  • Platelets take about an hour to infuse.
  • Your platelets may be filtered, leukocyte (white blood cell) poor, and/or irradiated depending on your doctor's orders.
  • You may be given medications prior to receiving platelets if you have had a reaction to platelets in the past.

Let your nurse know if you develop chills, hives, aches, shortness of breath, or any other problem that occurs during or after your transfusion

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The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center is accredited by The Joint Commission.
If members of the public have any quality-of-care or safety concerns, they may notify The Joint Commission at 630-792-5800.