Red Blood Cells

Reviewed on 9/13/2021

What Is Red Blood Cells and How Does It Work?

Red blood cells are the blood cells that carry oxygen. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin and it is the hemoglobin which permits them to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide. Hemoglobin, aside from being a transport molecule, is a pigment. It gives the cells their red color and their name.

The abbreviation for red blood cells is RBCs. Red blood cells are sometime simply called red cells. They are also called erythrocytes or, rarely today, red blood corpuscles.

Red blood cells is available under the following different brand names: RBCs.

Dosages of Red Blood Cells

Dosage Considerations – Should be Given as Follows:


  • Insufficient Tissue Oxygen Delivery Due to Active Bleeding / Symptomatic Anemia
  • 1 unit increase hemoglobin 1 g/dl in average sized adults without active bleeding or hemolysis; usually given over 1-2 hours but not longer than 4 hours
  • Rarely necessary to transfuse to hemoglobin over 10 g/dl
  • Activity bleeding patients dosing and rate of administration varies depending on rate of bleeding and must be evaluate on a case by case basis


  • 10-15 ml/kg increased hemoglobin 2-3 g/dl in patients without active bleeding or hemolysis
  • Actively bleeding patients dosing and rate of administration varies depending on rate of bleeding and must be evaluated on a case by case basis

Adult and Pediatric

  • Other Information
  • Usually blood loss over 20% estimated total blood volume


Digestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions See Slideshow

What Are Side Effects Associated with Using Red Blood Cells?

Side effects of red_blood_cells include:

This document does not contain all possible side effects and others may occur. Check with your physician for additional information about side effects.

What Other Drugs Interact with Red Blood Cells?

If your doctor has directed you to use this medication, your doctor or pharmacist may already be aware of any possible drug interactions and may be monitoring you for them. Do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any medicine before checking with your doctor, health care provider or pharmacist first.

  • Red Blood Cells have no known severe interactions with other drugs.
  • Red Blood Cells have no known serious interactions with other drugs.
  • Red Blood Cells have no known moderate interactions with other drugs.
  • Red Blood Cells have no known mild interactions with other drugs.

This information does not contain all possible interactions or adverse effects. Therefore, before using this product, tell your doctor or pharmacist of all the products you use. Keep a list of all your medications with you, and share this information with your doctor and pharmacist. Check with your health care professional or doctor for additional medical advice, or if you have health questions, concerns or for more information about this medicine.

What Are Warnings and Precautions for Red Blood Cells?


This medication contains red blood cells (RBCs). Do not take RBCs if you are allergic to red blood cells or any ingredients contained in this drug.

Keep out of reach of children. In case of overdose, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center immediately.


  • Should not be used to treat anemia that can be corrected with a non-transfusion therapy (iron therapy) unless immediate correction is urgently needed
  • Not indicated solely to providing blood volume and/or oncotic pressure, a sense of well-being, or to improve wound healing

Effects of Drug Abuse

  • No information available

Short-Term Effects

  • See "What Are Side Effects Associated with Using Red Blood Cells?"

Long-Term Effects

  • See "What Are Side Effects Associated with Using Red Blood Cells?"


  • If a transfusion reaction is suspected, the transfusion should be stopped, the patient assessed and stabilized, the blood bank notified, and a transfusion reaction investigation initiated. Massive or rapid transfusion may lead to irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias), body temperature below 95 F (hypothermia), high blood levels of potassium, low blood levels of calcium, difficulty breathing, and/or heart failure
  • All transfusions must be given via blood administration sets containing 170- to 260-micron filters or 20- to 40-micron microaggregate filters. No other medications or fluids other than normal saline should be simultaneously given through the same line without prior consultation with the medical director of the blood bank
  • Patients should be monitored for signs of a transfusion reaction including vitals pre, during, and post transfusion
  • Non-septic infectious risks include transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (approximately 1:2 mill), Hepatitis C Virus (approximately 1:1.5 mill), Hepatitis B Virus (1:300k), Human T-Lympotropic Virus, West Nile Virus,
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV), parvovirus B19, lyme disease, babesiosis, malaria, Chaga's disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease
  • Iron overload in chronically transfused patients due to abnormal structure of a globin chain (hemoglobinopathies) or blood disorder (thalassemia)
  • Consult with blood bank medical director or hematologist if you have questions regarding special transfusion requirements

Pregnancy and Lactation

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)-negative or CMV reduced risk (leukocyte reduced) red blood cells (RBCs) should be used in pregnant women who are CMV-negative or whose cytomegalovirus status is unknown
  • Consult with your physician regarding breastfeeding


About how much does an adult human brain weigh? See Answer
Medscape. Red Blood Cells.
RxList. Medical Definition of Red Blood Cells.

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