Blood transfusion safety

Safe and rational clinical use of blood

All patients requiring transfusion should have reliable access to safe blood products, including whole blood, labile blood components and plasma-derived medicinal products, appropriate to their clinical needs, provided in time and safely administered. Data on the use of blood products are limited, but studies suggest that blood products are often overprescribed in both developed and developing countries.

WHO recommends for the safe and rational use of blood to reduce unnecessary and unsafe transfusions and to improve patient outcomes and safety, thus minimizing the risk of adverse events including errors, transfusion reactions and transmission of infections.

These strategies should include:

  • Prevention, early diagnosis and effective treatment of conditions that could result in the need for transfusion (through health promotion, disease control and screening for early detection);
  • Optimal patient management and rational use of blood products (evidence-based use of transfusion for the treatment of conditions that could not be managed by alternative treatment modalities to blood transfusion including the use of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, good surgical and anaesthetic techniques);
  • Safe clinical transfusion processes for ensuring patient safety.

WHO has produced a series of recommendations, guidance documents and learning materials and conducted several global, regional and national meetings and skill building workshops to support countries in the development of systems for safe and appropriate use of blood.

Related documents

Aide-mémoire: Clinical use of blood
Aide-mémoire: Clinical transfusion process and patient safety
Developing a national policy and guidelines on the clinical use of blood: recommendations
Clinical use of blood: information sheet
The clinical use of blood in obstetrics, paediatrics, surgery and anaesthesia, trauma and burns: module
The clinical use of blood handbook

Meetings on safe and appropriate clinical use of blood