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How a blood transfusion works

Suppose you lose a lot of blood due to an accident or surgery, for example, then a blood transfusion is sometimes necessary. But what exactly is happening?

Whether a blood transfusion is successful depends on the extent to which the blood of the donor matches that of the recipient. And that has to do with your blood type. You inherit your blood type from your parents. There are currently 350 known blood groups, which in turn are subdivided into more than thirty blood group systems. The best known is the ABO system, in which the O  stands for a zero and not for a letter 'O', to indicate:this is neither A nor B.

Read also: 'A lot of blood facts in a row'

Blood is picky

Delwel:“If someone has blood group B, you can only give him an infusion with blood group B. If you give him a different blood group, the body will say:hey, I don't recognize this, so I'm going to make antibodies to make it go away. The same happens the other way around if someone with blood group A gets blood group B.” People with blood group O should not be given blood group A or B for the same reason. But if you have blood group AB, your body will receive both blood group A and B.

Know your blood type

Most people in the Netherlands have blood group O, about 47 percent. About 42 percent have blood group A, 8 percent blood group B and 3 percent blood group AB. “Many people know what blood group they have,” says Delwel. “If you don't know that, I advise you to do a self-test. If you then have to deal with enormous blood loss, you can quickly get the right blood. A wrong transfusion  can make you very sick
and can even be fatal in certain situations.”