Blood Types and Transfusion (TMEducation)

A, B, O, ever wondered what the doctors are talking about? What is rhesus, why do people need transfusions? Here at Trusted Medicine we hope to answer those questions. Read on

ABO Classification

The components of our blood can be broken down into cells (around 40%) and plasma (around 60%). The cells include red blood cells (these carry oxygen), white blood cells (these fight infection), and platelets (these clump together to help stop bleeding). Our blood type is determined by our red blood cells.

There are two main ways that blood is grouped. Firstly, the ABO classification. If our red blood cells have type A proteins on their surface, we are type A. Type B proteins on the surface makes us type B. If both types of protein are on the surface, we are type AB. Often, neither of these proteins are present, which is type O.

The second classification is rhesus.  If the rhesus protein is on our red blood cells, we are rhesus positive. If it isn’t, we’re rhesus negative.

These two classifications are used together when deciding blood type; O-positive is the most common an AB-negative is the least common.

Blood transfusions

A blood transfusion is a procedure of giving blood products from a healthy person to one who needs it. This is collected by blood donation, which is carefully checked for any blood-borne illnesses. This healthy blood can then be separated into the different types of cell to ensure that people receive exactly what they need.

There are two main reasons for blood transfusions. The first is if the volume of blood in our circulation is too low, putting our lives in danger. The second is if the number or quality of our red blood cells is too low, meaning that enough oxygen cannot be delivered to our tissues to keep them healthy. The first is usually due to massive blood loss (accidents, surgery, bleeding at childbirth). The second can be due to hereditary blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease.

It is important that the blood we receive is well matched to us, and this comes down to your blood type. As a reminder, type O blood cells do not have type A or B proteins on them. Therefore, if people with type O blood are given Type A or B blood, the body will not recognise the proteins on the surface. This causes the body to attack these blood cells rather than use them to help the body recover. This logic can be applied to each blood type, to ensure that we only receive blood products that our body will accept.

For more information on blood transfusions and alternative treatments, please visit the links below.

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Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his/her affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing.  All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of the sample surveyed. An online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice. 

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