What you can expect

Blood transfusions are usually done in a hospital, an outpatient clinic or a doctor's office. The procedure typically takes one to four hours, depending on which parts of the blood you receive and how much blood you need.

Before the procedure

In some cases, you can donate blood for yourself before elective surgery, but most transfusions involve blood donated by strangers. An identification check will ensure you receive the correct blood.

During the procedure

An intravenous (IV) line with a needle is inserted into one of your blood vessels. The donated blood that's been stored in a plastic bag enters your bloodstream through the IV. You'll be seated or lying down for the procedure, which usually takes one to four hours.

A nurse will monitor you throughout the procedure and take measures of your blood pressure, temperature and heart rate. Tell the nurse immediately if you develop:

  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chills
  • Unusual itching
  • Chest or back pain
  • A sense of uneasiness

After the procedure

The needle and IV line will be removed. You might develop a bruise around the needle site, but this should go away in a few days.

Contact your health care provider if you develop shortness of breath or chest or back pain in the days immediately following a blood transfusion.

Aug. 01, 2017
  1. What is a blood transfusion? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/bt. Accessed Feb. 7, 2017.
  2. The process. American Red Cross. http://www.redcrossblood.org/learn-about-blood/blood-transfusions/the-process. Accessed Feb. 7, 2017.
  3. Getting a blood transfusion. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/blood-transfusion-and-donation/how-blood-transfusions-are-done.html. Accessed Feb. 7, 2017.
  4. Blood safety basics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodsafety/basics.html. Accessed Feb. 7, 2017.