Clinical Laboratory - Transfusion Medicine

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Transfusion Reactions

Hemolytic Reactions

Hemolytic reactions occur when the recipient's serum contains antibodies directed against the corresponding antigen found on donor red blood cells. This can be an ABO incompatibility or an incompatibility related to a different blood group antigen.

Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), renal failure, and death are not uncommon following this type of reaction.

The most common cause for a major hemolytic transfusion reaction is a clerical error, such as a mislabeled specimen sent to the blood bank, or not properly identifying the patient to whom you are giving the blood. DO NOT ASSUME IT IS SOMEONE ELSE'S RESPONSIBILITY TO CHECK!

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions to plasma proteins can range from complaints of hives and itching to anaphylaxis. Such reactions may occur in up to 1 in 200 transfusions of RBCs and 1 in 30 transfusions of platelets.

Febrile Reactions

White blood cell reactions (febrile reactions) are caused by patient antibodies directed against antigens present on transfused lymphocytes or granulocytes. The risk for febrile reaction is 1 in 1,000 to 10,000.

Symptoms usually consist of chills and a temperature rise > 1 degree C.

Transfusion related acute lung injury (TRALI)

TRALI is now the leading cause for transfusion-related mortality. It is caused most often when donor plasma contains HLA or leukocyte (usually granulocyte) specific antibodies. Recipient leukocytes may be 'primed' by underlying illness to become more adherent to pulmonary alveolar epithelium. Introduction of the donor antibodies into the recipient causes granulocyte enzymes to be released, increasing capillary permeability and resulting in sudden respiratory distress from pulmonary edema, typically within 6 hours of transfusion. Leukopenia may transiently occur. Most cases improve within 2 days.

TRALI most often occurs with administration of blood products with plasma, such as FFP. Use of plasma from men reduces the incidence of TRALI, since women who have been pregnant are more likely to have higher titer HLA antibodies.

Bacterial Contamination

Bacterial contamination of blood can occur during collection. Bacteria can grow during storage at room temperature and during refrigeration (psychrophilic organisms). Platelet products carry the greatest risk, because they are stored at room temperature. Transfusing a contaminated unit can result in septic shock and death.

Transfusion Associated Circulatory Overload (TACO)

Circulatory overload can occur with administration of blood or any intravenous fluid, particularly in patients with diminished cardiac function.

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