A blood transfusion is a safe, common procedure in which blood is given to you through an intravenous (IV) line in one of your blood vessels. Blood transfusions are done to replace blood lost during surgery or due to a serious injury. A transfusion also may be done if your body can't make blood properly because of an illness. During a blood transfusion, a small needle is used to insert an IV line into one of your blood vessels. Through this line, you receive healthy blood. The procedure usually takes 1 to 4 hours, depending on how much blood you need. Blood transfusions are very common. Each year, almost 5 million Americans need a blood transfusion. Most blood transfusions go well. Mild complications can occur. Very rarely, serious problems develop.
The science of blood transfusion dates to the first decade of the 19th century, with the discovery of distinct blood types leading to the practice of mixing some blood from the donor and the receiver before the transfusion (an early form of cross-matching). In 1818, Dr. James Blundell, a British obstetrician, performed the first successful blood transfusion of human blood, for the treatment of postpartum hemorrhage. He used the patient's husband as a donor, and extracted four ounces of blood from his arm to transfuse into his wife. During the years 1825 and 1830, Dr. Blundell performed 10 transfusions, five of which were beneficial, and published his results. He also invented many instruments for the transfusion of blood. He made a substantial amount of money from this endeavor, roughly $2 million ($50 million real dollars).
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Dr. Charles R. Drew's research led to the discovery that blood could be separated into blood plasma and red blood cells, and that the plasma could be frozen separately. Blood stored in this way lasted longer and was less likely to become contaminated. Another important breakthrough came in 1939-40 when Karl Landsteiner, Alex Wiener, Philip