At our hospital, we use whole blood transfusions when patients come in with anemia whether from illness or acute blood loss as in trauma. The blood is usually donated by a relative who is cross-matched for compatibility. Sometimes, when a patient has severe intra-abdominal bleeding as occurs with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, we are able to collect the blood in the abdomen, filter it and transfuse it back to the patient. If the blood is contaminated, by intestinal contents from trauma or other sources of infection, it cannot be given back to the patient.
One day, I assisted the other doctors with bedside ultrasound to confirm an ectopic pregnancy with hemoperitoneum (fancy medical word to say there was blood in the abdominal cavity). She was then prepared for the operation to remove the ectopic pregnancy and to stop the bleeding. Several units of whole blood were requested and family members were called in to give their support and blood. In the operating room, the theatre staff gathered the supplies needed to process the intra-abdominal blood and give as an autotransfusion.
The blood is collected from the abdomen in bowls. It is then filtered through gauze and funneled into a blood bag before finally transfusing back to the patient.