What is a Blood Transfusion?

A blood transfusion is a medical procedure in which a person receives blood through an intravenous line in one of his or her blood vessels.  The person can donate his or her blood days before the transfusion or can receive blood from another individual.  During a transfusion, blood is delivered whole or in parts; the parts are red blood cells, platelets, plasma or clotting factors.  People of all ages can receive blood transfusion.  However, people most likely to receive blood are those who have lost blood due to traumatic injury, those undergoing surgery which will result in blood loss, and people who have illnesses that prevent their bodies from making blood or parts of it.

Blood is classified by four types:  A, B, AB and O.  Blood is also designated as either positive or negative.  During a transfusion, a person must receive his or her own blood type.  Otherwise, the antibodies in the person’s blood attack the new blood and the person becomes sick.  Before a transfusion, a medical technician usually tests the recipient’s blood type.  In addition, the technician verifies the person’s name and date of birth to make sure that the person is receiving the correct blood type.  In emergency situations, blood type O can be used because it is generally safe for almost everyone.  Finally, blood and blood parts are carefully screened by blood banks to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases and viruses.

What are the Risks and Complications Associated with a Blood Transfusion?

People receiving a blood transfusion may experience an allergic reaction, even if they are given the proper blood type.  The symptoms of an allergic reaction are anxiety, chest and back pain, breathing difficulty, fever, chills, clammy skin, a high heart rate, low blood pressure, or nausea.  In the event of an allergic reaction, the person administering the transfusion must stop it immediately and provide appropriate medical treatment.  In some cases, doctors will prescribe a medication to prevent allergic reactions.

While the risk is extremely low because blood is screened, blood transfusions may transmit HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and Variant Creatzfeldt-Jacob disease (vCJD).  The risk of getting HIV through a blood transfusion is 1 in 2 million.  The risk of getting Hepatitis B is 1 in 205,000, while the risk of getting Hepatitis C is 1 in 2 million.  Finally, the risk associated with getting vCJD, the human form of Mad Cow Disease, is also very low.

In some cases, blood transfusions can result in too much iron in the blood, which can result in damage to the liver, heart and other organs.  This usually occurs in people who have received multiple transfusions.  The condition is treated with iron chelation therapy, a pill or injection that removes extra iron from the body.

People receiving blood may experience injuries to their lungs.  The injury usually occurs within six hours of the transfusion.  Five to 25 percent of those people who get a lung injury are likely to die.  However, those people are usually very sick before the transfusion.

Another type of rare but serious reaction is called acute immune hemolytic reaction.  This complication usually occurs if a person receives the wrong blood type.  It occurs when the body of the recipient attacks the new blood, which creates substances that damage the kidneys.

How Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC Can Help If Your Child Suffered an Injury from a Blood Transfusion

If your child has experienced an injury due to a blood transfusion, our firm may be able to help.  Most blood transfusion injuries are preventable and are caused by medical negligence or malpractice.  We will take the time to investigate your child’s injury, determine its cause, and pursue compensation from the responsible party of parties.


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