Risks of Blood Transfusion
The risks of
blood transfusions include
transfusion reactions (immune-related reactions),
nonimmune reactions, and infections.
Immune-related (transfusion) 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.
reactions occur because of errors made in matching the recipient's blood to the
blood transfused. These errors are very rare, and much effort is made to prevent them.
Even receiving the correct blood type sometimes results in a 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.
Mild allergic reactions may involve itching, hives,
wheezing, and fever. Severe reactions may cause
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
- Nonhemolytic fever reactions cause fever and chills without
destruction (hemolysis) of the red blood cells. This is the most common
transfusion reaction. It can occur even when the blood has been correctly
matched and administered. The more transfusions you receive, the greater your
risk for this type of reaction. People who have had several transfusions are
more likely to have nonhemolytic fever reactions or other types of
immune system reactions. These problems occur because
the body mistakes the new blood as harmful and makes specific
antibodies to destroy it. Careful screening helps
reduce the risk for these problems.
- Hemolytic transfusion reactions can cause the most serious problems, but these are rare. These reactions can occur when your ABO or Rh
blood type and that of the transfused blood do not
match. If this happens, your immune system attacks the transfused red
blood cells. This can be life-threatening.
- Mild hemolytic transfusion reactions can happen when there is a mismatch of one of the more than 100
minor blood types. Most of the time, these reactions
to the minor blood types are less serious than a mismatch of the ABO or Rh blood types.
immune reaction to
platelets in transfused blood results in the
destruction of the transfused platelets. People who have this type of
reaction may have trouble finding blood that can be transfused without
causing a reaction.
- In rare cases, an immune reaction may take
place that attacks the person's lungs (transfusion-related acute lung injury).
This results in trouble breathing and other symptoms. Most people recover
fully from this type of reaction.
Fluid overload is a common
type of nonimmune reaction.
- Fluid overload can occur when you receive too
much fluid through transfusions, especially if you have not experienced blood
loss before the transfusion.
- Fluid overload may require treatment
with medicines to increase urine output (diuretics) to rid your body of the
A person can develop iron overload after
having many repeated blood transfusions. This condition, sometimes called
hemochromatosis, is often treated with medicine. Too
much iron can have an effect on many organs in the body.