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.

What are red cells?

Red cells are shaped like doughnuts but with an indented centre instead of a hole. Red cells give blood its colour and make up 40% of your total blood volume. They are red due to a protein called haemoglobin.

What is the role of red cells the body?

Red cells have two main functions:

  • Carrying oxygen to all parts of your body.
  • Removing waste products such as carbon dioxide from your body.

Why might I need a red cell transfusion?

You may need a red cell transfusion if you develop severe anaemia. Anaemia is the medical term for low haemoglobin (not enough red blood cells). Anaemia can result from:

  • Cancer and cancer treatments (for example chemotherapy) can affect your body’s ability to make new red blood cells.
  • An operation or injury if a large amount of blood is lost, resulting in low numbers of red cells.
  • Blood problems can cause a lower number of red cells to be made or the red cells that are made may not work properly.
  • Having a baby can result in iron deficiency and blood loss during delivery.

Who do red cell transfusions help?

Are there options other than a red cell transfusion?

Certain treatments or operations can’t be safely carried out without a red cell transfusion. However if other care options are available they should be used. For example, some causes of anaemia may be managed by treating the anaemia instead of giving a red cell transfusion. If your anaemia is caused by low iron levels, your doctor may treat you with iron supplements.

Learn more about anaemia and iron deficiency anaemia

Learn more about avoiding a transfusion and having a transfusion