Blood components usage

Essential adjuvant treatment

Transfusion constitutes an adjuvant treatment that is essential for the survival of thousands of patients. A transfusion is a medical procedure that consists in injecting blood or a blood component intravenously. The quantity of blood to be transfused depends on the patient’s needs. Doctors prescribe the blood components required for stabilizing and improving their patients’ health. In the Québec blood management system, hospital centres are responsible for transfusion quality.

Many diseases and surgical procedures require one or even several transfusions. These include:

  • Hemophilia: a congenital disease affecting blood coagulation, caused by a deficiency of a coagulation factor such as factor VIII or factor IX . Hemophiliacs, almost exclusively male, suffer from recurrent bleeding which can be spontaneous or the result of an injury.
  • Leukemia: a cancer of the blood characterized by the presence of cancerous cells in the bone marrow, where all blood cells are produced. This interferes with the production of red blood cells and platelets. Leukemia patients receive many transfusions in order to increase the number of blood cells in the body. Some patients may require a bone marrow transplant in order to survive.
  • Surgery (for example, orthopedic, cardiovascular, plastic and transplant surgery): Many major surgeries require a transfusion. The type of operation and the patient's condition determine the amount and which blood components will be transfused. Héma-Québec allows patients who are healthy enough to bank their own blood before an operation. This is called an autologous donation.
  • Accidents or trauma/shock: These situations can provoke a harmful and even fatal lack of blood in the body. The human body contains between five and six litres of blood. When an adult loses more than two litres of blood, he or she must be given sufficient quantities of packed red blood cells and plasma. A shortage of blood in the body can be harmful, even fatal. If the patient's condition is too critical to wait for packed red blood cells of the same blood type, doctors administer "universal donor" type O-negative blood.
  • Serious burns: The degree and size of the burn, and the part of the body affected determine the type of treatment. The more serious the burn, the greater the need for a transfusion.

You may also one day need blood or blood components. If and when you do, rest assured that the technology in this field has evolved tremendously.

Transfusion of blood components

Each blood component has a specific purpose. Today’s technology and knowledge allow us to separate whole blood into its various components. In this way, the doctor transfuses only the blood component that a patient needs. Whole blood is rarely transfused. This lets us maximize the use of human blood, which is such a vital resource.

Red blood cells
A transfusion of red blood cells serves to re-establish the patient’s volume of cells after an accident-related hemorrhage, thereby allowing for an increase in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. A red blood cell transfusion also serves to treat chronically anemic patients whose bone marrow is not able to produce red blood cells in sufficient quantity.

Plasma
Among its other uses, plasma is transfused to correct deficiencies in clotting factors and to treat shock due to a loss of plasma following severe burns or massive hemorrhages.

Platelets
Platelets are indispensable for blood clotting. For this reason, we can understand their importance for patients suffering from serious wounds, severe hemorrhaging, aplastic anemia, leukemia and cancer. Platelets are necessary for the health and survival of these patients.

Did you know that . . .

  • Every day, hundreds of Quebecers receive blood transfusions.
  • Nearly one Quebecer in seven has already had a transfusion.
  • One Quebecer in three has a relative who has received a transfusion.
  • Every 80 seconds, someone needs blood in Québec.
  • Every year, some 80,000 patients receive blood products in Québec.