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Most blood transfusions are given in a clinic or hospital. Depending on where you’re getting a blood transfusion, the process may be a little different. Here is a general overview of what it’s like to get a blood transfusion.
How long the transfusion takes depends on what kind of blood product you’re getting and how you’re doing with the transfusion.
For example, whole blood and packed red blood cells take between 2 to 4 hours to complete. But platelets and plasma can be transfused quickly, usually less than 30 minutes. If you have certain conditions like heart failure, they may run it slower so that your body isn’t getting too much fluid at once.
Sometimes blood transfusions can be given at home by a visiting nurse. This happens rarely and there are certain rules on who can and can’t get a transfusion at home. Home transfusions follow the same safety standards as hospital transfusions. Not all home health agencies provide this service.
Most people who get a blood transfusion have no problems. But some people do, and these are called transfusion reactions.
The are several types of transfusion reactions. Some are mild and don’t need treatment, and others are more serious. Most transfusion reactions happen during a transfusion, but others might not happen for several days.
Some of these reactions can happen during the transfusion, but some might not happen for days after your transfusion. Tell your doctor or nurse right away if you have:
The chance of getting an infection from a blood transfusion in the United States is very low. All blood donors are screened, and all blood products are tested for the following infections:
Hepatitis B virus
Some states require other tests depending on common infections in that area. More tests may be ordered for certain patients. For example, some patients need cytomegalovirus (CMV)-negative blood products.
Rarely, tiny amounts of skin bacteria get into the blood during donation. Platelets have the highest risk of bacterial contamination because they are kept at room temperature. Other blood products are refrigerated or frozen, which lowers the chance of bacteria growing.
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Last Revised: June 21, 2023
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