Blood transfusion safety: the potential role of the patient

Transfus Med Rev. 2011 Jan;25(1):12-23. doi: 10.1016/j.tmrv.2010.08.003.


There are many initiatives to reduce transfusion-related errors. However, one important intervention that remains largely unexplored is that of patient involvement. This article considers the patients' role in ensuring safe care along the transfusion trajectory.

Study design and methods: Empirical data on patients' attitudes to, and involvement in, transfusion-related behaviors were systematically reviewed. Opportunities for patient involvement in transfusion processes were identified by extant national guidelines and expert consultation.

Results: A number of transfusion-related behaviors in which patients can participate were highlighted, but to date, little is known about patients' preferences for taking on an active role. Many patients have no recollection of consenting to a blood transfusion, and some are not even aware they have been transfused. Information provided to patients about transfusion is often poorly understood. Patients have a number of misconceptions about the safety of blood transfusion, and the way in which information is presented to patients can significantly affect their level of confidence and subsequent acceptance in receiving a blood transfusion.

Summary: One important intervention that could help to improve the quality and safety of the blood transfusion process is involvement of the patient themselves. This article considers the patients' role in ensuring safe care at different stages of the transfusion trajectory. The literature on patients' attitudes to, and involvement in, transfusion-related behaviors was systematically reviewed and opportunities for patient involvement were identified. The evidence suggests that although there is considerable potential for patients to be involved in different blood transfusion processes, it is very unclear at present how able and willing patients would be to take on an active role in this aspect of their health care management. Research in this area is paramount in helping to inform the design and implementation of interventions aimed at encouraging patient involvement in this very important but largely under-researched area.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Blood Safety / methods
  • Blood Safety / standards
  • Blood Transfusion / standards*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Models, Biological
  • Patient Participation / methods*
  • Patients*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Safety Management / methods
  • Safety Management / organization & administration*
  • Transfusion Reaction*