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Indicated when acute blood loss is sufficient to produce hypovolemia, whole blood provides both oxygen-carrying capacity and volume expansion. In acute blood loss, hematocrit may not accurately reflect degree of blood loss for 48 h until fluid shifts occur.


Indicated for symptomatic anemia unresponsive to specific therapy or requiring urgent correction. Packed red blood cell (RBC) transfusions may be indicated in pts who are symptomatic from cardiovascular or pulmonary disease when Hb is between 70 and 90 g/L (7 and 9 g/dL). Transfusion is usually necessary when Hb is <70 g/L (<7 g/dL). One unit of packed RBCs raises the Hb by ∼10 g/L (1 g/dL). In the setting of acute hemorrhage, packed RBCs, fresh frozen plasma (FFP), and platelets in an approximate ratio of 3:1:10 units are an adequate replacement for whole blood. Removal of leukocytes reduces risk of alloimmunization and transmission of cytomegalovirus. Washing to remove donor plasma reduces risk of allergic reactions. Irradiation prevents graft-versus-host disease in immunocompromised recipients by killing alloreactive donor lymphocytes. Avoid related donors.

Other Indications

(1) Hypertransfusion therapy to block production of defective cells, e.g., thalassemia, sickle cell anemia; (2) exchange transfusion—hemolytic disease of newborn, sickle cell crisis; (3) transplant recipients—decreases rejection of cadaveric kidney transplants.


(1) Transfusion reaction—immediate or delayed, seen in 1–4% of transfusions; IgA-deficient pts at particular risk for severe reaction; (2) infection—bacterial (rare); hepatitis C, <0.1−1 in 1,000,000 transfusions; HIV transmission, 0.1−1 in 1,000,000; (3) circulatory overload; (4) iron overload—each unit contains 200- to 250-mg iron; hemochromatosis may develop after 100 U of RBCs (less in children), in absence of blood loss; iron chelation therapy with deferoxamine indicated for ferritin >1000 ng/mL; (5) graft-versus-host disease; (6) alloimmunization (Table 9-1).

TABLE 9-1Risks of Transfusion Complications

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