Blood Transfusion (cont.)
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Risks of Blood Transfusion
The risks of blood transfusions include transfusion reactions (immune-related reactions), nonimmune reactions, and infections.
Immune-related reactions occur when your immune system attacks components of the blood being transfused or when the blood causes an allergic reaction. This is called a transfusion reaction.
Most transfusion reactions occur because of errors made in matching the recipient's blood to the blood transfused. These administrative errors may occur because of mislabeled blood samples or misread labels. Much effort is made to prevent these errors; they occur in about 1 out of 14,000 transfusions.1 Even receiving the correct blood type sometimes results in a mild transfusion reaction.
These reactions may be mild or severe. Most mild reactions are not life-threatening when treated quickly. Even mild reactions, though, can be frightening. Severe transfusion reactions can be life-threatening, but this is very rare.2
Mild allergic reactions may involve itching, hives, wheezing, and fever. Severe reactions may cause anaphylactic shock.
Doctors will stop a blood transfusion if they think you are having a reaction. A reaction may turn out to be mild. But at the beginning, it is hard for doctors to know whether it will be severe.
There are several immune-related transfusion reactions.
Fluid overload is a common type of nonimmune reaction.
Very rarely, a person can develop iron overload after having many repeated blood transfusions. This condition, sometimes called acquired hemochromatosis, is often treated with medicine. Too much iron can have an effect on many organs in the body.
The transmission of viral infections, such as hepatitis B or C or HIV, through blood transfusions has become very rare because of the safeguards enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the collection, testing, storage, and use of blood. The risk of infection from a blood transfusion is higher in less developed countries, where such testing may not happen and paid donors are used.
It is possible for blood to be contaminated with bacteria or parasites. Bacterial contamination can happen during or after donation. Donated blood might have a parasitic infection. Transfusion with blood that has bacteria or parasites can result in a systemic infection. But this risk is small.
The risk of a bacterial infection in donated blood is small because of the precautions taken in drawing and handling blood. There is a greater risk of bacterial infection from transfusions with platelets. Unlike most other blood components, platelets are stored at room temperature. If any bacteria are present, they will grow and cause an infection when the platelets are used for transfusion.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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