Reduction of blood transfusions

Export Indicator

The number of blood units transfused in the previous 12 months, per 1000 population
What it measures

A high proportion of all blood transfusions in many countries are unnecessary, and this is also true in the African countries with high HIV prevalence. It follows that a substantial proportion of blood transfusions that result in HIV infection are in fact unnecessary. Recognising this fact, many countries have introduced or strengthened measures designed to reduce the number of unnecessary transfusions. This indicator provides a crude measure of success towards that goal.


Total number of blood units transfused in the previous 12 months


Total number of people

Method of measurement

The numerator – the total number of blood units transfused in the previous 12 months – forms the denominator of Blood Safety Indicator 1, Percent of transfused bllod units screened. In countries with centralised blood transfusion services or with adequate health information systems, the number of units transfused annually country-wide can be compiled from routine service records. The denominator comes from census or other routine population data. In some countries, it may be necessary to introduce systematic record-keeping at sentinel hospitals, and base estimates on experience at the sentinel sites. In such a case, the denominator will be the population of the district or city served by the hospital.

Measurement frequency

Education: N/A

Gender: N/A

Geographic location: N/A

Pregnancy status: N/A

Sector: N/A

Target: N/A

Time period: N/A

Type of orphan: N/A

Vulnerability status: N/A

Explanation of the numerator
Explanation of the denominator
Strengths and weaknesses

This indicator is not able to distinguish between necessary and unnecessary blood transfusions and is therefore at best a crude measure of progress in reducing overall transfusions. However, supplemental data on transfusion practices can be collected where further insight is desired and the added effort warranted. This indicator is not comparable across countries, since the genuine need for transfusions may vary greatly from country to country, but it does give an idea of trends over time in a single country. If there are national guidelines for blood transfusion, it may be possible to assess the proportion of transfusions that were unnecessary using a hospital record review.

Further information