Blood transfusions in Canada are very safe, but they will never be risk free.

  • Risk of transfusion-transmitted disease per unit transfused are:
    • HIV (AIDS) about 1 in 21 million
    • Hepatitis C about 1 in 13 million
    • West Nile Virus less than 1 in 1 million
  • Other Risks of blood transfusions are:
  • Hemolytic reactions, where the patient’s own blood destroys the transfused blood.
  • Serious bacterial infection or Sepsis (1 in 500,000 per unit of Red Blood Cells)


Blood transfusions can be a life saving measure for patients with ongoing bleeding or hemorrhage. If bleeding continues the body’s oxygen carrying capacity is compromised, as well platelets and plasma levels can become decreased. Plasma and platelets are important factors in blood clotting, if they become too low blood will not clot and bleeding will not stop. Blood transfusions are beneficial in correcting/preventing these issues in many circumstances.

Further information about blood and blood transfusions can be found by clicking: Blood Transfusions – What You Should Know .


Alternatives to transfusion are available and depend on each individuals situation. The strategies most often used to minimize the need for transfusion are:

  • Improved surgical methods to prevent or reduce bleeding; and
  • Procedures or treatments that require transfusion of the least amount of blood possible.

Discuss your interest in blood/transfusion alternatives with your physician or treating practitioner for more information.

More information about Blood Alternatives/Blood Management or Transfusion Avoidance can be found in the section on Blood Management Service.

Review this Dietary Iron Guide for suggestions on how to increase your daily intake of iron rich foods.

Sometimes intravenous administration of iron is required to treat a pre-surgical anemia. Click here for information on Anemia In Surgery and review the Intravenous Iron pamphlet for further information.

Advanced Medical Directives

Health care directives are useful to ensure your health care wishes are known in case of emergency where you may not be able to speak for yourself.  Advanced Healthcare directives can be discussed with your healthcare provider.