Medical practitioners have shed more light on when it might become necessary for a patient to take a blood transfusion. A specialist in family medicine, Dr. Lekan Bello, said blood transfusion is generally the process of receiving blood or blood products into one’s circulation, intravenously.
According to him, transfusions are used for various medical conditions to replace lost components of the blood. “A blood donated could be given to patients with abnormal blood levels.
The patient may have abnormal blood levels due to blood loss from injuries, trauma or surgery, or as a result of certain medical problems. “Such conditions include but not limited to malaria, some forms of cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and other blood diseases. Other medical disorders such as hereditary anaemias and aplastic anaemia may also need periodic blood transfusions.”
Bello said that a transfusion is done with one or more of the following parts of blood: red blood cells, platelets, plasma, or cryoprecipitate. He said those using cells donated by healthy volunteers could help replace red cells, platelets and other blood components.
Also, Dr. Ikechukwu Nnabuife, medical director of Hilton Specialist Hospital, Ifako-Agege, Lagos, pointed out that almost all patients with leukemia, which primarily affects the marrow and blood, require some transfusions during their care.
He added: “Many chemotherapy drugs can temporarily impair blood cell production in the marrow and depress immune system functions. Stem cell transplantation patients receive high doses of chemotherapy, which depletes stores of normal blood cells.”
The doctor, however, said patients with insufficient blood counts could as well develop anaemia (low red cells), thrombocytopenia (low platelets) and Leukopenia (low white cells, either granulocytes or lymphocytes, or both). He pointed out that doctors’ take different approaches when deciding if transfusion is appropriate.
“How to best balance the benefits and risks of transfusions is the subject of some debate in the medical field. Currently, transfusion policies usually depend on the patient’s condition, an individual doctor’s training, experience and longheld medical standards of practice,” Nnabuife added.
In addition, Bello said there are dangers inherent in blood transfusions. Patients, he said, could lose their lives during the process if necessary precautions are not followed. “Other dangers include contracting syphilis, HIV-1 and 2, hepatitis B and C and malaria from the blood that is donated if not properly screened.” The doctors also said it was possible for reactions to occur with any blood component.
This, according to them, could occur at the time of the transfusion or not until weeks or months later. They listed the symptoms and side effects that might arise during or soon after transfusion to include fever (febrile reactions).
“This is the most common complication but usually not serious. There is also a skin rash or hives, called uriticaria. Others are nausea, pains at the transfusion site in the arm and vein, back pain as well as shortness of breath,” Bello said.