Transfusions of red blood cells are the main
treatment for people who have moderate or severe
thalassemias. A blood transfusion, given through
a needle in a vein, gives you healthy red blood
cells with normal hemoglobin. Red blood cells
live for only about 120 days. So, you may need
repeated transfusions to maintain a supply of
healthy red blood cells.
If you have hemoglobin H disease or beta
thalassemia intermedia, you may need blood
transfusions on occasion. For example, you may
need this treatment when you have an infection
or other illness, or when your anemia is severe
enough to cause tiredness.
If you have beta thalassemia major, or Cooley's
anemia, you need regular blood transfusions
(often every 2 to 4 weeks). These will help you
maintain normal hemoglobin levels and red blood
cell numbers. Blood transfusions allow you to
feel better, enjoy normal activities, and live
Blood transfusions are lifesaving, but they're
expensive and carry a risk of transmitting
infections and viruses (for example, hepatitis).
However, this risk is very low in the United
States because of careful blood screening.