Blood Transfusion Substitutes

Blood transfusion is associated with risks that can be avoided by using substitutes to blood transfusion. Furthermore, supplies of donor blood are limited and substitutes or alternatives to blood transfusion may help curb the shortages.

Some of the alternatives to blood transfusion that are available include:

Volume expanders

Blood loss involves the loss of blood volume. The human body normally contains around 5 litres of blood. When a lot of body fluids are lost, shock may set in. This blood loss and shock can be prevented by administering solutions that expand the plasma volume, restoring it to a normal level and keeping the circulation going. The most common fluids used to achieve this in the hospital setting include normal saline (sterile water with a precise amount of salt) and lactated Ringer’s solution (saline plus other chemicals). These are administered directly into the blood stream via intravenous catheters.

Growth factors

Hematopoietic growth factors stimulate the bone marrow to make more blood cells. In patients with low blood counts, these agents can help increase the red blood cell, white blood cell, or platelet counts. However, one disadvantage of growth factor therapy over blood transfusion is that growth factors often take many days or weeks to raise the blood counts and are not useful for patients who need their blood cell urgently restored. Other important drawbacks of growth factor therapy include lack of treatment response in cases of severe bone marrow disease and an increased risk for certain types of cancer including lymphocytic leukemia, multiple myeloma, breast cancer and cervical cancer. Growth factors are also more expensive than whole blood transfusion.

Autologous blood transfusion

An autologous blood transfusion involves some of the patient’s own blood being removed, filtered and then introduced back into the patient. This is the preferred option in planned surgeries. Using the patient’s own blood reduces the need for transfusions from other donors.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Feb 26, 2019

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2019, February 26). Blood Transfusion Substitutes. News-Medical. Retrieved on May 13, 2021 from

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "Blood Transfusion Substitutes". News-Medical. 13 May 2021. <>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "Blood Transfusion Substitutes". News-Medical. (accessed May 13, 2021).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2019. Blood Transfusion Substitutes. News-Medical, viewed 13 May 2021,


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
You might also like... ×
WHO calls for equitable treatment access and health services to everyone affected by Chagas disease