This leaflet provides information for patients receiving a blood transfusion at Velindre Cancer Centre. It will explain why you’re having a blood transfusion and where and how it will be given. It will also tell you about the care and services you will receive during your stay. Contact telephone numbers and details of how to obtain further information on blood transfusions are given at the end of the leaflet.
Why do I need to have a blood transfusion?
You need to have a blood transfusion because you are anaemic. This means that you do not have enough red blood cells in your body. This can make you feel very tired (lethargic) and that you have no energy. It may also make you feel breathless.
Having a blood transfusion will help to increase your red blood cells. This will alleviate the symptoms of anaemia. You should feel the benefits of the blood transfusion within 24 hours. However these benefits may be short lived so you may need further blood transfusions.
Where will I receive my blood transfusion?
You will receive your blood transfusion on the Ambulatory Unit. This is situated on the ground floor of Velindre Cancer Centre. You will be offered a comfortable reclining chair to sit in whilst you receive your blood transfusion.
What facilities are on Ambulatory Unit?
There are a selection of magazines and books available. DVDs are also available on request. There are toilets on the unit. Hot and cold drinks are provided.
How long will I need to stay?
The length of time you will need to stay depends on how many units of blood your doctor has prescribed. The first unit of blood is given slowly, it usually takes about 2 hours. Other units usually take about 1½ hours unless your doctor requests a slower rate.
When your doctor is arranging your appointment you will be told how many units of blood you will receive. This will help you to calculate how long you will stay.
Can somebody stay with me?
Currently due to the need to ensure 2m space between patients during COVID-19 we do not usually allow anyone to stay with you during your transfusion. If you have any concerns about this please speak to your team before your treatment starts. We may be able to make some exceptions but we will need to be aware of this before the day of treatment.
What should I wear?
You should wear comfortable clothing. Most patients wear their normal everyday clothes.
How will my blood transfusion be given?
Your blood transfusion will be given by a drip through a tiny tube directly into a vein in your arm. The
drip is connected to a pump fitted onto a drip stand. The pump regulates the rate that your blood transfusion is given. If you have a special line in place, for example a PICC or Hickman line, then your blood transfusion can usually be given through this.
The nurses will monitor you during your blood transfusion. They will regularly check your temperature, pulse and blood pressure and make sure that you are comfortable and that the drip is flowing at the correct rate.
Can I move around Ambulatory Unit whilst having my blood transfusion?
Yes, you can move around. Your drip stand has wheels so you can push this yourself, or ask a nurse to help you.
What about any tablets and medicines that I usually take?
It is important that you bring these in with you to show the nurses. You can continue taking these as usual unless you are advised not to.
What are the risks associated with having a blood transfusion?
All medical procedures and therapies involve some degree of risk. These need to be balanced against the risk to your health of not having a blood transfusion.
The biggest risk from a blood transfusion is being given the wrong blood. We will ask for your full name and date of birth and this identification will be used to check each bag of blood that is given.
The risks of getting an infection from a blood transfusion are very low. All blood products are carefully checked and tested for viruses or impurities to minimise any risk to you.
The risk of contracting HIV or HTLV (Human T-Cell Lymphotropic Virus) infection from a blood transfusion is about 1 in 5 million. The risk of contracting hepatitis is 1 in 500,000 for hepatitis B and 1 in 30 million for hepatitis C.
The risk of getting variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) from a single blood transfusion is very low, although this risk increases with additional blood transfusions. Each year approximately 2 million units of blood are transfused in England and there have been just a handful of cases where patients are known to have become infected with vCJD.
Are there any side effects?
Most people do not experience side effects whilst having a blood transfusion. However, it is important that you tell the nurses immediately if you feel unwell in any way. For example if you feel hot or feverish, notice any itching or rashes, feel sick or experience any lower back or loin pain.
What will happen when my blood transfusion is finished?
Your nurse will disconnect the drip and apply a dressing to your arm when your blood transfusion has finished. The nurses will give you any specific information or instructions before you go home.
If you have concerns you can contact us using the telephone numbers listed below.
Contact telephone numbers
Further information and advice is available from:
Rhosyn Day Unit 029 2061 5888 ext 6352
Monday – Friday 8am – 5pm
For booking enquiries 029 2061 5888 ext 6248
Macmillan Cancer Support 0808 808 0000 - www.macmillan.org.uk
National Blood Service- www.welsh-blood.org.uk
This leaflet was written by health professionals. Sources of information include the Handbook of Blood Transfusion Medicine, the Blood Component Transfusion Policy of Velindre NHS Trust and the Welsh Blood Service leaflet ‘Will I need a blood transfusion?’ The information contained in this leaflet is evidence based. The leaflet has been approved by doctors, nurses and patients. It is reviewed and updated every 2 years.