The Truth about Blood Transfusion

Updated at: Jun 04, 2014
The Truth about Blood Transfusion

Most blood transfusions are successful but sometimes, minor complications can occur and in rare cases, the person may incur serious complications.

Himanshu Sharma
Blood DiseasesWritten by: Himanshu SharmaPublished at: Jun 04, 2014

Blood transfusion is a common procedure in which one receives blood through an intravenous (IV) line. There could be different occasions in which one may need blood direly, such as after a road accident, surgery, in the case of certain medical conditions such as cancer or sickle cell anemia, premature birth, etc.


blood transfusion

The procedure saves lives and improves health, but it may have some risks. Most transfusions are successful but sometimes, minor complications can occur and in rare cases, the person may incur serious complications. The following are some complications associated with blood transfusions.


Blood incompatibility

Blood type of the receiver must match donor blood. Moreover, RH factor (either positive or negative) and certain antigens must be deemed compatible with donor's blood for a successful and risk-free blood transfusions. If a patient receives incompatible blood type, his/her body's antibodies can reject donor blood during the transfusion. In such a case, a patient may exhibit symptoms such as chills, fever, nausea and chest pain. Among other complications associated with blood type incompatibility are rise in temperature, unexplained rapid heart rate, drop in blood pressure, feeling of a disrupted well-being, fall in red blood cell count and an increase in liver enzymes.


Bodily reactions

A few patients may experience fever after blood transfusion. Some patients may experience development of hives and itching.  There are rare instances of patients experiencing life-threatening allergic reaction to the donor's white blood cells; this is called anaphylaxis. Pulmonary edema or fluid accumulation in the lungs and graft-versus-host disease may develop as an immune response to the donor’s blood.



There is a risk of catching infections through transfusions. There is a high possibility that the donor’s blood is infected, thus carrying the virus from his/her body to the receiver’s through blood.


blood transfusion complications


Immune suppression

A person's immune system can become suppressed after blood transfusion. There can be a decrease in the number of cells that promote immunity, particularly killer T-cells.


Complications related to massive transfusions

In rare cases, a person might need a massive transfusion of blood. Owing to the enormity of the blood loss, serious complications may arise. These complications include blood clotting, hypothermia, calcium binding and an imbalance in the acid / base components of the blood. These can adversely affect one’s organs and be life-threatening.

If you are going in for surgery and possibly need a transfusion later, you better plan beforehand. It is possible to donate your own blood. Donate your blood in advance, which can be later used on you if need be. Another option that you have is obtaining blood donations from a family member with the same blood type as yours. Using the blood of a family member ensures a safe and successful transfusion.



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