A blood transfusion is a medical treatment that supplies blood the body needs. The blood goes from a syringe to a tube that is placed in a vein.
A baby may need a blood transfusion for any of several reasons. There may have been bleeding before delivery. Maybe the baby has an infection. Premature babies may have a lack of red blood cells (anemia) because they're not yet ready to make their own. Full-term babies don't start making their own blood cells for 1 to 3 months.
The blood for the transfusion comes from a donor blood bank, just like the blood given to adults. It's natural for you or other family members to want to donate your own blood to help your baby. But blood from a blood bank is already available and carefully tested for safety. Having your own blood tested, typed, and processed takes too long for it to be used for your baby.
Your baby may need special care, such as being in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This may be scary for you. But the hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.
The blood transfusion is done very carefully. The hospital staff follows strict rules to make sure that the donor blood is a good match with your baby's blood. They will make sure that your baby is kept safe.
First, your baby's blood is tested for its type (A, B, AB, or O, and Rh-negative or Rh-positive). The donor blood is tested to make sure it will mix safely with your baby's blood.
Your baby's blood is also screened to look for antibodies that might react with the blood that is given to your baby. Donor blood is checked again to make sure that it's the right blood for your baby.
Next, a thin, soft tube (catheter) is inserted into your baby's vein. The vein may be in the arm, leg, scalp, or belly button. The catheter is then attached to a tube that connects to a syringe that contains donated blood. The blood is pumped slowly into your baby's vein. Since your newborn is small, the amount of blood given is also small—normally only a few tablespoons. The nurse will carefully watch your baby during the transfusion.
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Current as of: March 28, 2018
Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Jennifer Merchant, MD - Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine
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