Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Your Should Know About Blood Transfusions

Blood transfusions have become common in many medical procedures. They are used to replace blood that has been lost due to surgery, injury or disease. While patients suffering from severe anemia have also been known to receive blood transfusions in order to shore up their blood supplies.

Despite their routine nature, it makes you wonder why are you asked by hospitals to sign a consent form before you are given a blood transfusion.

The reason, like many medical procedures, there are risks involved. Here are some.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions are the most common type of reactions. When they happens, the you start feeling itchy and hives appear as your body reacts to the donated blood. To avoid this, antihistamines like benadryl is often injected before transfusions.

Febrile Reaction

When a febrile reaction to the donated blood occurs, you get a sudden fever that may be accompanied by chills, headache and body discomfort, usually within 24 hours of the transfusion.


There have been very rare cases of people being infected from blood transfusions. Some of these infections include bacteria, Hepatitis B and C, and HIV.


For transplant patients and those waiting for transplants, blood transfusions may be needed if red blood cell levels drop significantly. The downside of blood transfusions for these patients is that Because the blood being transfused into your body comes from other people, it carries a bunch of antibodies different from yours. The net effect of this is it increases your panel reactive antibody (PRA) score. The PRA score is a gauge of how well your body is willing to accept organs from other people. The higher the PRA score, the less likely your body will accept a donated organ. In these cases, doctors often order leukocyte depleted red blood cells to be transfused to try to reduce this side effect.

These risks are often very small as hospitals take the utmost precautions in order to keep reactions from happening. Often, they run more than 10 tests on each blood sample to limit the risks.

This is not to say that we should avoid transfusions, but to know that there are risks along with the benefits. So, like many things, having the good effects outweigh the bad will be important in making the final decision on whether to have a blood transfusion or not.

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