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Blood transfusion can be life-saving. Blood
products include whole blood (blood with all of its
components, rarely used now), packed red blood cells (blood
cells that carry oxygen), platelets (cells in the
blood that allow blood clots to form), plasma (the
liquid portion of blood without cells), and concentrated clotting factors.
When packed red blood cells are transfused, an individual's blood count
increases. This blood count is usually measured as the hemoglobin level. Hemoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen to the
tissues and cells of the body. Normal hemoglobin levels are about 12 to 15
grams per 100 milliliters of blood for women and about 14 to 17 for men. Although
individual circumstances can be different, anemia (low
red blood cell count) requiring transfusion usually occurs when the hemoglobin
is about 7. Medical research has shown that significant decreases in tissue
oxygen delivery occur when the hemoglobin drops to that level. The October
6, 2004, issue of JAMA includes an article about
blood transfusion in the setting of acute coronary syndrome (heart attack).
Torpy JM, Glass TJ, Glass RM. Blood Transfusion. JAMA. 2004;292(13):1646. doi:10.1001/jama.292.13.1646
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