Blood Transfusion Errors - Medical Negligence Solicitors Compensation Claims


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Blood Transfusion Errors

Blood transfusions are not without risks. This is even when the best of screening and preparation are presumably done. The major risks of blood transfusion reactions include immune reactions, infections and non-immune reactions.

Immune-related reactions happen when the person receiving the transfusion has an immune system that attacks the blood components being transfused. It can also happen when the blood results in an allergic reaction. Such a reaction is called a transfusion reaction.

Many transfusion reactions happen due to errors a person in the lab makes in matching the recipient's blood to the blood being transfused. These are administrative mistakes that happen because labels are misread or labels are mis-labeled. Much effort is made to prevent these types of errors, and fortunately they only happen in about 1 out of 14,000 transfusions. Even if the lab personnel select the right blood type, there is still the chance of a transfusion reaction.

Transfusion reactions can be severe or mild. If they are mild, they tend to have symptoms but not life threatening symptoms. Even so, mild symptoms can be scary. Severe transfusion reactions are often life-threatening; however, they are rare events. Symptoms of mild transfusion reactions include hives, itching, wheezing and fever. Symptoms of severe reactions include the possibility of anaphylaxis and shock.

The treatment of a transfusion reaction is to stop the blood transfusion. Usually it turns out to be a mild reaction but it is impossible for the doctor to know for sure.

Immune-related transfusion reactions come in several varieties. These include the following:

  • Non-haemolytic fever reactions. These cause fever and chills but there is no destruction of red blood cells. This is the most common type of transfusion reaction and occurs even if everything has been matched in the laboratory. This happens more often if you have had many previous blood transfusions. This happens because the body mistakes minor aspects of the blood as foreign and makes antibodies against them. It is important to do as careful a screening as possible before giving the blood.
  • Haemolytic reactions are the most severe. These happen when the transfusion reaction is related to ABO or Rh sensitivity—if the two blood types to not match. Blood cells become haemolytic and break down and the immune system is on full alert against the new blood. Haemolytic transfusion reactions have the potential to be life-threatening.
  • There can be mild haemolytic blood reactions when the patient’s blood has a reaction to one of more than a hundred minor blood types. These are less serious than those who have a reaction to a ABO or Rh blood type.
  • There can be an immune type reaction to platelets. This results in the disruption of the transfused platelets and it becomes difficult to find a blood transfusion that actually doesn’t provide a reaction to the patient.
  • In unusual situations, there can be an immune reaction that attacks the lungs in a situation known as transfusion-related acute lung injury. The patient has difficulty breathing and other lung symptoms. While dangerous, most people fully recover from this reaction.

Non-Immune Reactions

These are side effects that do not happen as a result of an immune situation. An example is fluid overload, which happens when the provider gives too much blood at the same time in a given transfusion. It is usually treated by giving the patient diuretics to decrease the amount of fluid in the body. It can happen if you have not lost blood prior to getting the transfusion.

Iron overload can happen if you get repetitive transfusions because iron is part of transfused blood. It is often called acquired haemochromatosis.

Infections can be gotten from a transfusion. Typical viral infections include hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV infections. These are rare infections because of significant screening through the US FDA, which oversees the collection, storage, testing and use of transfused blood. The risk is greater in countries that are less developed. Blood can be contaminated also with parasites or bacteria in which the infection happens after the donation. This is fortunately a rare occurrence and is reduced by proper collection and storage of blood.

Medical Negligence Solicitors - Blood Transfusion Errors

Our medical negligence solicitors operate using the no win no fee* scheme and you will not have to fund or finance your blood transfusion error claim in any respect. In the event that the claim is successful the other side will pay our legal charges and if we are not successful you pay nothing at all. You have nothing to lose in taking up our offer of free advice and there is no further obligation should you decide not to pursue a claim further. We offer a true professional risk free service and you will only ever deal with a qualified, specialist medical negligence solicitor who answers to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Do yourself justice and call our offices today.


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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here