All you need to know about blood and transfusion

Learn about different types of transfusion, the risks and benefits, what to expect and even ways to avoid a transfusion.

Reasons for a transfusion

There are many medical conditions or problems that might require different types of transfusion such as red cells, platelets and plasma. Some of the reasons a transfusion might be required include cancer, operations, blood problems, pregnancy and childbirth.


Cancer can result in the need for a transfusion for a number of reasons including surgery, side effects of chemotherapy and as a result of the cancer itself.


You may need a red cell transfusion if you have lost a large amount of blood before or during surgery. A transfusion of platelets, plasma or clotting factors may be needed if any of these components are low or not working properly.



Anaemia is a medical term for low red blood cell count or haemoglobin and often results in a lack of oxygen to the cells. Anaemia can be caused by many medical conditions. Transfusion of red cells may be required if anaemia becomes severe.

Iron deficiency

Iron is a mineral nutrient that is essential for your body to function normally and to make haemoglobin (Hb). The treatment of iron deficiency is iron replacement therapy. Transfusion is rarely required.

Bleeding disorder

Bleeding disorders are a group of conditions where blood cannot clot properly. Transfusion of platelets or plasma products may be required to assist with clotting. Red cells may also be required if blood loss is severe.

Pregnancy & childbirth

There are several situations that may occur during or immediately after pregnancy and require treatment with blood products including anaemia, bleeding, prevention of haemolytic disease of the newborn and immune platelet disorders.

Avoid a transfusion

Sometimes the best transfusion is the one you don't get.

Read more about the ways you can reduce your chance of needing a transfusion.

What can I do?
You can discuss possible options to help minimise your need for a transfusion with your doctor.
What will my health care team do?
Your health care team will use a strategy called patient blood management (PBM) to minimise your need for a transfusion. If you are having an operation, PBM can be used before, during or after your surgery. Some of these strategies can also be used if you have cancer, a blood problem or if you are having a baby, for example iron supplementation to treat low iron levels.

Types of transfusion

Transfusions may be required if you are very low in key components of blood. There are many medical conditions or problems that can result in low or poorly functioning components in your blood. Whole blood, platelet and plasma donations are used by Lifeblood to manufacture different blood products such as red cells, platelets, plasma, cryodepleted plasma and cryoprecipitate.

Red Cell

Red cell transfusion may be required if you have a low haemoglobin or red cell count (anaemia). Red cells carry oxygen needed by all cells in your body.


Platelet transfusion may be required if you have a low platelet count (thrombocytopaenia). Platelets assist with forming blood clots.


Fresh frozen plasma (FFP) also known as plasma, is the blood component made once all the blood cells are removed from whole blood. It is used to replace missing or low levels of blood proteins in a range of medical and surgical situations.

Cryodepleted plasma

Cryodepleted plasma is plasma that has had some blood clotting proteins (cryoprecipitate) removed. It is mostly used for a condition known as thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP).


Cryoprecipitate contains clotting proteins, fibrinogen in particular. It is most commonly used as part of a massive transfusion where large numbers of blood components are required to assist with clotting.

Having a transfusion

Find out what questions to ask your doctor about transfusion, what will happen on the day and what to expect afterwards.

Before a transfusion

Treatment with blood transfusion is carefully considered in discussion with your doctor. Find out more about your condition and treatment options to make an informed decision about your transfusion.

On the day

Receiving your transfusion safely involves a number of important steps which involve you, and hospital and laboratory staff.

After a transfusion

If you are going home after your transfusion you will need to make sure you know how to contact the hospital or doctor if you start to feel unwell.

Patient Stories

Find out some transfusion stories and tell us your own.

Candace's story

During chemotherapy treatment Candace required blood transfusions...

Eleanor's story

Eleanor required a blood transfusion during the delivery of her first child...

William's story

William is in hospital recovering from heart surgery (coronary artery bypass grafting)...

About blood

It’s an amazing journey that blood takes - from our generous volunteer donors to our processing centres to laboratories to the hospital ward and into your veins. There are many steps to make sure the blood you receive is as safe as possible.

Donating blood

Lifeblood collects blood from voluntary, non-remunerated donors at both fixed and mobile collection centres across Australia to ensure our blood supplies can meet the needs of patients who require blood transfusions.

Making blood components

Lifeblood processes each donation to ensure components are optimised to help the greatest number of recipients. For example, whole blood donations are manufactured into red blood cells, platelets and plasma products. 

Ensuring blood safety

All blood donations undergo a number of tests at Lifeblood to ensure product safety and quality. Testing is also performed at the hospital before you receive a transfusion.

Matching blood groups

Before you receive a transfusion, compatibility testing is performed between the donated blood and a patient's blood sample.


The resource section is a collation of all the transfusion related patient information referenced within this website and allows for searches by topic of interest.