Symptoms Of Blood Transfusion Reactions: Process & Treatment

If any person has lost too much blood from his body due to an accident or during surgery, doctors often recommend blood transfusion. Blood transfusion is a common procedure of giving the person blood donated by someone else. Blood transfusion is life saving in many cases as it replenishes the lost blood volume.

However, it is essential that blood type of the recipient person is compatible with that of donor blood. If the donor’s blood does not match with the recipient, he may experience transfusion reaction. Although most blood transfusions are safe, mild reaction may occur in some patients. In rare cases severe reaction may cause kidney and lung failure.

Process Of Transfusion Of Blood

Blood transfusion may be required when a person has lost too much of blood or the body is not producing enough amount of blood. It can be in certain conditions such as severe anemia, surgery, cancer, burn injury, infection etc. Transfusion is done of the whole blood or its components such as platelets.

Before blood transfusion, the doctor will draw some amount of blood and send it to laboratory for typing and cross matching. The lab technician determines the type of blood. Different blood types are A, B, AB and O. Each type is either Rh positive or Rh negative. Once the type is determined, it is cross matched with the donor blood whether it is Rh compatible with the donor blood.

The red blood cells of each type contain a specific protein marker. If the protein marker of recipient and donor type does not match, body’s immune system will consider it as foreign substance and try to destroy it thus giving rise to symptoms of transfusion reaction.

Signs And Symptoms Of Transfusion Reactions

Most transfusion reactions occur when the patient is receiving blood. It may also develop later on within few hours or a day. During transfusion patient is closely observed for any type of reaction. Following are the symptoms of transfusion reaction:

  • Fever: Patient may have fever with chills.
  • Allergy: As with any allergic reaction, patient may have itching all over the body, skin rash, swelling of lips and face. In serious condition, he may have difficulty in breathing and incontinence of urine. Sometimes a severe reaction may cause low blood pressure and shock.
  • Overload: Patient may be overloaded with transfusion fluid. This may result in swelling all over the body and breathlessness.
  • Lung injury: It is an injury to the lung called transfusion acute related lung injury. This condition is caused by the antibodies in the donor blood. Patient may have serious breathing problem which may lead to death of the patient.
  • Red blood cell damage: Although with all precautions of typing and cross matching, mismatch may occur. In such situation hemolytic reaction occurs soon after transfusion. Patient may be having discomfort at first but may also have breathing difficulty, cold and clammy skin with low blood pressure. This reaction may sometime develop even after a month of transfusion.
  • Patient may also complain of pain in flank region.

Complications Of Transfusion Reaction

All transfusion reactions are not serious. Some of them are mild while some are life threatening. Serious complications include:

  • Renal failure
  • Edema of lungs
  • Anemia
  • Low blood pressure and shock.

Treatment Of Blood Transfusion Reactions

If the doctor or the patient observes any symptoms of transfusion reaction, the first step the medical attendant takes is to stop immediate transfusion of blood. Few milliliter of blood sample is collected and sent to the laboratory for repeat blood typing and cross matching between the donor blood and recipient patient’s blood. It is done to ensure that the donor blood and patient’s blood is matching in type as well as Rh factor.

Since transfusion reaction may be mild or severe, the symptoms are treated accordingly. In case of mild symptoms such as fever and chills or body ache and headache patient is given fever medicine. Other medications are also administered to reduce itching and renal failure.