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Blood Transfusion and Conservation

Your body needs a certain amount of blood to stay alive. If you lose more than 20% of the blood normally in your body, you will need a blood transfusion to replace it. This may happen if you are having surgery, been in an accident, or suffered some trauma.

A blood transfusion is the introduction of donated blood directly into the blood stream. Read the following sections for more information about:

Where does donor blood come from?
Blood that is used in a transfusion comes from people just like you. If you are planning for a surgery, you may be able to store your own blood ahead of time (autologous donation). Otherwise, it comes from people who have donated their blood through the Canadian Blood Services.

Is the blood I received from a donor safe?
In Canada, donors are never paid for their blood and Canada's blood supply is considered one of the safest in the world. All prospective donors are carefully screened to protect both the person who donates the blood and the patient who receives it. Every time they donate, donors are asked a series of questions about their health. Based on these questions, some donors are eliminated from giving because they may be at greater risk of passing on an infectious disease.

A new sterile disposable needle attached to a collection bag is used to take blood from the donor. Then, every donation is tested for diseases that might be transmitted by blood transfusion. Any donated blood that does not pass the test is destroyed. However, there is still a small risk of disease transmission. To put this in perspective, the risk is generally much smaller than the risk involved with most surgical procedures themselves.

I have surgery coming up. Can my relative donate blood for me?
A donation from a relative or friend specified for a certain patient is called a "direct donation". This practice is not generally supported in Canada at this time. However, encouraging your friends and family to donate blood will help ensure that the blood supply is sufficient to prevent blood shortages.

I have surgery coming up. Can my own blood be stored and used?
In some circumstances, you may be able to have your own blood taken and stored prior to surgery in which a transfusion may be necessary. This is known as autologous (aw-tol-o-gus) donation. An autologous donation will not be taken if it is unlikely that a transfusion will be required. You also need to be in acceptable physical condition and have an adequate red blood cell (hemoglobin) level. Please speak to your doctor about this program. If there is not enough of your own blood available at the time of surgery, you may still need to have a transfusion of volunteer donor blood.