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Risks of Blood Transfusion


Nonimmune reactions

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 excess fluid.

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) for 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.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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