The rise and fall of heterologous transfusion

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine; School of Medicine; Senior Scholars Program

Faculty Mentor

Manisha Desai

Publication Date


Document Type



Analytical, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Techniques and Equipment | Anesthesiology | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Medical Education


Now a routine lifesaving treatment, blood transfusion between humans became a safe procedure only after many early therapeutic disasters. Performed between different species, heterologous transfusions actually succeeded homologous transfusions, those performed between members of the same species. In the early history of transfusion, both homologous and heterologous transfusions were performed in many clinical settings. Early clinicians were unable to distinguish between deaths caused by baseline illness and those resulting from transfusions. This report examines both early experiments with homologous transfusion between animals and later efforts investigating and finally abandoning heterologous transfusion. Topics explored include: 1) contributions and lessons learned from key individuals, 2) how these researchers suggested, performed, advocated, or challenged the practice of heterologous transfusion, and 3) why heterologous transfusions were even considered as a mode of therapy.


Blood, History of medicine, Transfusion

DOI of Published Version



Nguyen HY, Desai MS. The rise and fall of heterologous transfusion. J Anesth Hist. 2020 Sep;6(3):127-132. doi: 10.1016/j.janh.2020.07.001. Epub 2020 Jul 7. PMID: 32921482. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of anesthesia history


Hoang Yen Nguyen participated in this study as a medical student in the Senior Scholars research program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID