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You will need to be competent in all areas of blood transfusion prior to becoming a PRHO; This module will direct your learning but it is up to you to put the knowledge and skills into practice. The skills should be attempted in a skills centre before being practiced in the clinical setting.

aims and objectives
Aims and Objectives

This module is designed to direct your learning around the knowledge and skills associated with blood transfusion

By the end of this module students should be

  • Aware of the ‘when, where, why and who’ of blood transfusion
  • Aware of the steps necessary to order a blood transfusion and the common reasons why this process fails
  • Able to write up a blood transfusion
  • Able to set up a blood transfusion
  • Aware of the common complications of blood transfusion and their treatments
  • Calculate the required drip rate for a unit of blood
challenging knowledge i
Challenging Knowledge - I

For each of the following patients list:-

(a) If you would transfuse them and

(b) How many units you would give them, if any.

(c) What other investigations would you order; What further management would you think about

  • 23 yo asymptomatic, healthy woman with menorrhagia - Hb 8.9 g/dl, MCV 73fl
  • 86 yo asymptomatic man with occasional angina – Hb 9.6 g/dl, MCV 104fl
  • 61 yo man with severe gram negative sepsis – Hb 7.0 g/dl, MCV 81fl
  • 54 yo woman post hemicolectomy Hb 8.3g/dl, MCV 84fl
  • 73 yo man presenting with acute upper GI bleed; BP 80/60, Pulse 120 thready – Hb 8.0 g/dl, MCV 101fl
challenging knowledge ii
Challenging Knowledge II

Before attempting the skills in this module - List the steps you would take

  • In order to cross match a patient for a blood transfusion
  • To set up a blood transfusion
  • List the common complications of a blood transfusion and their treatment.
blood and blood product transfusion
Blood and Blood Product Transfusion

You should be familiar with each of these blood products. What are their indications and the complications associated with them?

  • Whole Blood
  • Packed Cells
  • Platelets
  • Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP)
  • Cryoprecipitate

The Principle Aims of Blood Transfusion are to:-

  • Improve oxygen carrying capacity of blood.
  • Symptomatic improvement.
  • Reduce hypovolaemia.
  • 1 UNIT of Blood should increase the Hb by approx.1g/dL.
  • If no improvement or reduction in Hb – think about ongoing blood loss or destruction.
  • You need treat the underlying cause.
blood transfusion indications i
Blood Transfusion Indications - I

The Sanguis Study, 1994

  • No consensus on who, when, where and why to transfuse a patient
  • A lot of variation in practice – dependent mainly on the individual clinician ordering the transfusion
  • ‘Strong suggestion that inappropriate use is widespread’
indications for blood transfusion
Indications for Blood Transfusion

Acute Anaemia

  • Symptomatic hypovolaemia and blood loss.
  • Peri-operative – ‘replacing losses’
  • Haemolysis (treat the underlying cause)
  • Severe, critical illness.
blood transfusion indications ii
Blood Transfusion Indications - II

Acute Anaemia

  • Increase oxygen carrying capacity of blood

- Young adults can tolerate 30 – 40% volume loss with adequate crystalloid replacement alone

- Weiskopf et al (1988) – Euvolaemic anaemia in healthy volunteers (and patients) down to Hb ≥5g/dL (!) – No demonstrable inadequate tissue oxygenation

- I.e. Only for symptomatic hypovolaemia

keep the hb 10 g dl
‘Keep the Hb ≥ 10 g/ dL’

(2) Peri -operative

  • Much quoted by Surgeons still - ‘Keep the Hb ≥ 10 g/ dL


  • Carson et al (1988); Stehling & Simon (1994)

Patients tolerated Hb 8 – 10 g/dL

No patients died with Hb ≥ 8g /dL and ≤ 500ml blood loss

No data on morbidity ? Healing / recovery etc

severe illness expensive scare
Severe illness – Expensive Scare

(3) Severe and critical illness

  • Oxygen delivery is dependent on:

(a) Cardiac output (c.o.)

(b) Oxygen content of blood

  • However there is very little change in C.O. until Hb ≤ 7 g/dL.
  • Herbert et al, 1999 – recommended this was the level taken for transfusion in the critically ill unless other factors were present.
recommendations for transfusion
Recommendations for Transfusion
  • Bracey et al, 1999

≤ 9 g/dL – CABG operation

≤ 8 g/ dL – Symptomatic anaemia and blood loss

≤ 7g/dL – Critically ill (Herbert et al)

But: on-going and further blood loss must be taken into consideration as must the clinical situation and co-morbidity!

pale mrs mcpale hb unmeasurable
Pale Mrs McPale – Hb ‘Unmeasurable’

Chronic Anaemia

  • Transfuse according to

- Symptoms

- Co-morbidities

- Level of Activity

  • Correct underlying cause and deficiencies
  • ‘Beware the ‘well patient’ with the macrocytic anaemia, Hb of 2g/dL – ‘Slowly down – Slowly up’; Remember their blood may be ‘see through’ but they are essentially euvolaemic. A large, rapid transfusion will cause fluid overload and pulmonary oedema.

Acute Anaemia

  • Treat Patient according to situation

- Co-morbidities

- Symptoms

- Cause of the Anaemia

- Severity and likelihood of re-bleed

Red Cell Transfusion SHOULD not be solely used as a ‘plasma expander’ – but primarily as a method to increase oxygen carrying capacity.

pre transfusion considerations
Pre – Transfusion Considerations
  • Does the patient need the transfusion?
  • Does the patient want the transfusion?

- Verbal consent

- ? Soon to be written consent

  • Cross match vs Group and Save?
  • How many units to Cross? (As opposed to many rivers to cross (ho ho))
  • When to re-cross in active bleeding
  • Local haematology policies
does the patient need the transfusion
Does the patient need the transfusion?


  • Symptomatic anaemia
  • Significant blood loss
  • Anaemia / severe illness
  • Improving Oxygen capacity of the blood


  • Asymptomatic Hb ≥ 8 g/dL
  • ‘Well’ patient receiving alternative therapies – EPO or Iron
  • ‘Euvolaemic’ Anaemia secondary to B12 and folate deficiencies
does the patient want the transfusion
Does the patient want the transfusion?
  • Consent

- Recommended to obtain verbal consent from every patient; ?Soon to be written.

  • Need to discuss:

- Indication; Benefits

- Risks - Infectious incidence HIV 1per 3x 106

HBV 1per2 x 105

- Non Infectious e.g. Transfusion reaction

- Patient’s right to refuse transfusion e.g. Jehovah’s witnesses, has to be respected if decision made when competent.

- Most hospitals now have Blood Transfusion nurse specialist to assist with these issues.

requesting blood and blood products
Requesting Blood and Blood Products
  • Bureaucratic errors are the commonest cause of blood transfusion problems – DON’T BE A STASTISTIC!
  • Requests will not (and should not) be processed if any of the following stages are missed or are wrong.

(a) Request Form details

(b) Blood bottle details

(c) No patient wrist band or missed details on the band (If phlebotomist is taking the blood).

write up the blood transfusion cross match request using the form provided
Write up the Blood Transfusion Cross match request using the form provided

Mrs Kathy Lawrence is a 79yo woman with myelodysplasia. She has been re-admitted with a symptomatic anaemia, Hb 4.9 g/dl, MCV 87. Please write a request form for her cross match using the form provided.

Hospital number 213436; DOB 13/09/24; Turner ward; Multiple transfusions over the last 6 months; Blood group A Rh +; No known antibodies; Four pregnancies

patient details required apply within
Patient Details required – apply within

Patient Details required on form

  • Full names
  • DOB
  • Hospital Number
  • Location
  • Blood Group (if known)
  • Previous transfusion and obstetric history

Transfusion details

  • Reason for request; Present Hb (if known)
  • Location, Date and Time of expected transfusion
  • Date of request
  • Type of blood (Packed cells, whole blood, G&S only); Number of units.

Doctor Details

  • Name, Bleep number and Signature of person requesting the blood


sample collection no magazines available
Sample Collection – No magazines available
  • Check patient details on wrist band vs form.
  • Use Pink cross match bottle (In use nationally)
  • Details required on Blood bottle

- Full names of patient

- DOB; Gender; Hospital number

- Signature of person taking blood

- Date and Location

  • Take blood bottle down to the blood bank if required urgently – you will also meet the cross match team (essential when you need a favour) and where the blood fridge is situated.


setting up the transfusion
Setting up the Transfusion
  • Units of blood are stored in the ‘blood bank’ fridge or theatre fridge.
  • You will need all the patient’s details prior to going to collect any blood products
  • Check details of blood report form against unit of blood.

[Do not accept any wrong or missing details]

  • You will need to sign for the unit in blood bank register; The responsibility is therefore yours!
  • Start transfusion within 30 minutes of blood being removed from the fridge.
  • This picture is for those that have never seen a fridge!

The Ian Wright, Wright ,Wright Rule

The Right Blood,

The Right Patient,

The Right Time!

Why can’t you use this unit of blood unless you are a Vet?

cross match or group and save g s
Cross Match or Group and Save (G&S)
  • Guides (particularly for major surgical procedures) are available in most hospitals.
  • Most haematology labs can cross match blood in 20 minutes.
  • Cross match when

(a) Significant, on-going or potential significant blood loss

(b) Severe symptomatic anaemia or illness

prescribing blood transfusion
Prescribing Blood Transfusion

Please write up the a four unit blood transfusion for Mrs Lawrence using the fluid chart supplied.

The correct format is shown on the next slide.

Why do we give frusemide?

What is the slowest rate of transfusing a unit of blood?


Ward: Turner Hospital No:213436

Consultant: Feather Name; Kathy Lawrence

DOB: 13/09/24


setting up a transfusion
Setting up a transfusion
  • Prescribe Transfusion on IV chart

- State units to be given

- Rate of each unit (slowest approx 4 hours)

- Give saline (100ml+) before (to keep cannula ‘open’) and after transfused units to ‘wash through’ the line.

- Frusemide (40mg) is often given with each or every other unit (IV or PO) to stop potential fluid overload. Not required when patient is hypovolaemic

- All patient details MUST be correctly charted.

blood transfusion
Blood Transfusion
  • It takes TWO to check details of blood unit
  • Check details on the unit of blood against those written on the form against patient’s wrist band. ALL MUST BE CORRECT! (Recent advance = bar code devices)
  • Check any queries with the laboratory or the haematologist on-call.
blood transfusion procedure
Blood Transfusion - Procedure
  • Introduce yourself to the patient
  • Check patient understanding and ensure they are happy to receive blood transfusion
  • Gain verbal consent
  • Ensure patient has venous access – will need to site cannula if no access present!
  • Check equipment – Correct unit of blood and blood giving set
  • With a partner – check unit of blood details against transfusion slip
  • Check patient details against blood unit.
  • Puts on gloves
  • Attach unit of blood to giving set and run through blood correctly
  • Aseptically attach blood giving set to cannula; Secure the giving set and cannula with bandaging.
  • Ensure blood is flowing and set at correct rate
  • Inform nurses blood is running and to make sure routine observations are made.
setting up the transfusion33
Setting up the transfusion

To set up a transfusion

  • Two people to check details
  • Blood transfusion report form; Unit(s) of blood
  • Patient with IV access (!) and wrist id band
  • Sterile blood giving set
blood transfusion acute complications ii
Blood Transfusion - Acute Complications II

Transfusion Related Acute Lung Injury (TRALI)

  • RHS Rare; Non-cardiogenic Pulmonary oedema
  • Caused by donor blood containing anti-Leucocyte antibodies
  • Occurs at the start of the transfusion
  • Can be life threatening
  • Treat for

(a) Acute transfusion reaction

(b) Respiratory failure (ARDS), Shock and Pulmonary oedema

(RHS – Rocking Horse Shit – Not Royal Horticultural Society)

As Dorothy parker once said – ‘You can lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her think’)

generic management of acute transfusion reaction
Generic Management of Acute Transfusion Reaction
  • Most ‘reactions’ occur within the first fifteen minutes of blood being started – this is the most important time for observations to be done. Do not hide the patient away during this time – let the nurses know transfusions are running and that they should do formal observations for the first fifteen minutes and then routinely.

If a reaction occurs:-

  • Stop the unit of blood being transfused!
  • Ensure patient is clinically well and no other pathology is present (why are they having transfusion etc) - Treat the underlying cause of ‘reaction’; Once patient is deemed OK:-
  • Disconnect and take down entire transfusion giving set and blood unit.
  • Maintain venous access with normal saline
  • Check administrative details from transfusion forms and patient’s wrist band
  • Contact the haematology / transfusion lab and inform them you are returning the unit of blood for testing.
  • Take bloods – Blood film, FBC, Cultures, Clotting, Cross match sample (U&Es)
  • If blood transfusion is essential or serious reaction occurs need further advice from haematologist
  • Nursing staff need to observe patient for signs of ‘shock’, DIC, acute renal failure

Thus ‘Regular’ observations of BP, Pulse, ToC, Urine output

re cap of multidimensional analysis
Re-cap of Multidimensional analysis

Hopefully by now you will be familiar with using multidimensional analysis. I have included the example from module one. If you are confident using other methods this is fine but you must get the answers correct!

dimensional analysis
Dimensional Analysis

Dimensional analysis is commonly used by chemistry and physics students to ensure they don’t make basic calculation errors when using lots of values in an equation with different units; Each time one converts one unit to another we use a conversion factor, which we will call the dimensional analysis conversion factor (DACF) e.g 450g to kg – the DACF = 1000g / 1 kg

Thus 450g / Xkg = 1000g / 1 Kg

XKg = 450g x 1 Kg


= 0.450 Kg

Dimensional analysis ensures that both sides of an equation are ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’. I.e. The units on both sides are the same. By cancelling the units above and below the line, the units yu are left with on one side should equal those of the value you are seeking. If they don’t match, you have mucked up somewhere! It will not ensure your maths is correct.

slide40 - Dr Michael Baker – a teacher with a similar outlook on education!

Dimensional analysis for party planning…

If you have ever had a party you have used dimensional analysis. The amount of beer (or soft drinks) and munchies you will need will depend on the number of people you expect. For 30 people you may estimate you need to go and buy 120 bottles of beer and 10 large pizzas (obviously not a medic party!) How did you guestimate these numbers? Here’s the dimensional analysis.

4 bottles / person and 1/3 of a pizza per person

30 persons x (4 beers) = 120 beers


30 persons x (0.333 pizza) = 10 pizzas


But should you buy beer in six packs or cases? – 1 case = 4 six packs = 24 Beers

120 beers x 1 six pack x 1case = 5 cases

6 Beers 4 six packs

1 case / 4 six packs = 5 cases / x six packs = 20 six packs

to calculate drip rates transfusion rates
To calculate drip rates / transfusion rates
  • Blood transfusions are run through specific giving sets with a filter included in the chamber and wide bore tubing.
  • You can NOT run them through a normal giving set as without the filter the blood will coagulate.
  • Likewise you should NOT run fluids such as saline and dextrose through a blood giving set unless it is during or after a blood transfusion.
to calculate drip rates transfusion rates42
To calculate drip rates / transfusion rates
  • For any giving set the tubing will have its own drop factor. This is the number of drops in 1ml.
  • The drop factor is written on the packaging and is dependent on the bore of the tubing.
  • For reasons unbeknown to me the units of drop factor is gtt / minute.
  • Common drop factors are 10, 15 and 20 gtt / min
  • Paediatric drips commonly have a drop factor of 60 gtt /min
  • Saline and Dextrose are commonly run through 10 gtt / min tubing whereas blood is commonly run through 20 gtt / minute tubing
to calculate drip rates transfusion rates43
To calculate drip rates / transfusion rates

To calculate the drip rate (drops / minute)

Drip Rate gtt = Volume to be infused (ml) x Drop Factor (gtt/ml)

min Time (minutes)

1 unit of blood is approximately 400ml in volume

E.g. A unit of blood is prescribed to run over 2 hours; The giving set has a drop factor of 20 gtt /ml. What is the drip rate (drops /min)?

(See next slide for answer and calculation)

The calculations used here are similar to those used for crystalloid transfusions – see module (4)

example one calculate the transfusion rate
Example one – Calculate the Transfusion rate

E.g. A unit of blood is prescribed to run over 4 hours; The giving set has a drop factor of 20 gtt /ml. What is the drip rate (drops /min) ?

Drip rate = 400 ml x 20 gtt ; Drip Rate is drops / minute

4 hour 1ml

Thus Drip Rate = 400ml x 20 gtt x 1 hour

4 hour 1 ml 60 minutes

By multidimensional analysis units are correct (drops / minute)

Drip Rate = 100 / 3 = 33 drops / minute

  • Drop rate is rounded up or down to the nearest drop
  • In the clinical setting to be able to count drops / minute it is sensible to have a number divisable by 4 - Thus you would set this drip at 32 drops per minute
please try the following calculations they should be included in your folder
Please try the following calculations – They should be included in your folder
  • A 71 yo man is receiving a blood transfusion after a hemicolectomy. The transfusion is set at 30 drops per minute with a giving set of 20 gtt / ml. The unit of blood is prescribed for 4 hours as he has grade 1 heart failure. Is the transfusion rate correct?

(2) A 31 yo woman is having a blood transfusion after having a major upper GI bleed due to a peptic ulcer. The unit of blood is running through a giving set with a drop factor of 10 gtt/ ml. The rate of the infusion is set at 60 drops / minute. How long will it take the 6 units prescribed to run through assuming there is 5 minutes to change each unit?


A 71 yo man is receiving a blood transfusion after a hemicolectomy. The transfusion is set at 30 drops per minute with a giving set of 20 gtt / ml. The unit of blood is prescribed for 4 hours as he has grade 1 heart failure. Is the transfusion rate correct?

Using Drip Rate = Volume to be Infused x Drop factorTime in minutes

X gtt / min = 400ml x 20 gtt x 1 hour

4 Hr 1 ml 60 minutes

The drip should be running at 33 gtt/ min – so it needs to be re-set.


A previously well 31 yo woman is having a blood transfusion after having a major upper GI bleed due to a peptic ulcer. The unit of blood is running through a giving set with a drop factor of 10 gtt/ ml. The rate of the infusion is set at 60 drops / minute. How long will it take the 6 units prescribed to run through assuming there is 5 minutes to change each unit?

Using Drip Rate = Volume to be Infused x Drop factor

Time in minutes

60 gtt / min = 400 ml x 10 gtt x 1 hour

X hour 1 ml 60 minutes

X hours = 4000 = 1.11 hours / unit


Thus for 6 units = 1.11 x 6 = 6.67 hours

Plus 5 minutes between units 1,2; 2,3; 3;4; 4,5; 5,6 = 25minutes = 0.42 hours

Total transfusion (or confusion) = 7.1 hours

converting drip rate gtt min to ml hour
Converting drip rate (gtt /min) to ml /hour

In high dependency areas caring for critically ill patients it may be necessary to know the infusion rate in ml/hour – this is important in setting infusion pumps and in calculating fluid balance.

E.g. What is the transfusion rate in ml /hour of a blood transfusion being run at 40 drops / minute through a giving set with drop factor of 20 gtt / ml?


E.g. What is the transfusion rate in ml /hour of a blood transfusion being run at 40 drops / minute through a giving set with drop factor of 20 gtt / ml?

If there are 40 drops in one minute then in 1 hour

40 drops = X drops thus X = 40 x 60 = 2400 drops / hour

1 minute 60 minutes

If the giving set has drop factor of 20 drops/ 1 ml

20 drops = 2400 drops thus Xml = 2400 = 120 ml / hour

1 ml X ml 20

Therefore one could set an infusion pump to deliver this volume or it can be factored into the fluid input /hour.

calculate the transfusion rate in ml hour
Calculate the Transfusion rate in ml/hour

A 94 yo woman is receiving a ‘slow blood transfusion for myelodysplasia. The unit of blood is being run at 60 drops / minute through a 20 gtt / ml giving set. Calculate the rate of the transfusion and comment on whether the rate is appropriate

too much too quickly
Too Much – Too Quickly

If there are 60 drops in one minute then in 1 hour

60 drops = X drops thus X = 30 x 60 = 3600 drops / hour

1 minute 60 minutes

If the giving set has drop factor of 10 drops/ 1 ml

20 drops = 3600 drops thus Xml = 3600 = 180 ml / hour

1 ml X ml 20

Thus the unit of blood (400ml) will run through in 400 / 180 = 2.22 hours

I.e. Too quickly for an 94 yo with myelodysplasia

learning outcomes
Learning Outcomes

At this point you should

  • Have read and made notes regarding the ‘who, why, where and when’ of blood transfusion
  • Be aware of the acute and chronic complications of transfusion
  • Be aware of the steps regarding ordering and setting up a blood transfusion
  • Be able to order a cross match for a patient
  • Be able to prescribe a blood transfusion
  • Be able to calculate the correct infusion rate in drops/min and ml / hour

If you are unable to achieve all of these outcomes at this point you will need to continue to practice the skills and re-visit the webpages to refresh your knowledge

recommended websites and references
Recommended websites and References

References to follow