What are the Different Blood Transfusion Risks?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Though blood transfusions can be lifesaving, they are also associated with various types of risks. Some of the blood transfusion risks a person may face include allergic reactions, infections, damage to the lungs, and high fever. Sometimes the recipient of a blood transfusion may even suffer from an overload of iron as a result of the transfusion. Patients who receive blood transfusions also face the risk of developing an autoimmune disorder.

When a person receives a blood transfusion, medical professionals usually ensure that the blood used matches his blood type or is a blood type that is safe for him to receive. Despite this, however, a person who has a blood transfusion may have an allergic reaction to something in the blood. For example, an individual may have an allergic reaction that causes him to suffer from hives and itchiness. In only rare cases, a person may have a severe allergic reaction to a blood transfusion and suffer from breathing difficulties, heart rate changes, and upset stomach.


Infection is one of the most well-known blood transfusion risks. Typically, donated blood is tested for a range of bloodborne infections that may affect a transfusion recipient. This testing lowers the risk of infection dramatically, but bloodborne infections may still occur from time to time. For example, in rare cases, an individual may contract human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or hepatitis B or C as a result of a blood transfusion. Acute, life-threatening infection may occur in the event that a blood transfusion was contaminated with bacteria, but this is rare as well.

Blood transfusion risks also include transfusion-related acute lung injury. With this condition, the lungs sustain damage and the patient may have breathing problems. The medical community is unsure about the cause of transfusion-related acute lung injury, but most people recover from it with proper medical treatment.

Fever may also develop after a person receives a blood transfusion. In most cases of fever resulting from blood transfusions, the elevated temperature develops while the patient is receiving the transfusion or a short time after he has received the transfusion. In some cases, a fever caused by a blood transfusion may develop along with such symptoms as chills and tremors.

Iron overload is also among the blood transfusion risks. The result of this may be excess iron in the blood. Unfortunately, this can cause damage to the body, including the patient’s liver. This condition can be treated with medications that remove iron from the body.

An individual may also suffer from an immune reaction to a blood transfusion that causes such symptoms as fever, pain in the back or chest, and upset stomach. Darkened urine may occur as a symptom of an immune reaction as well. Usually, this occurs when the patient’s immune system attacks the red blood cells in donated blood, and the red blood cells react by producing a substance that harms the patient’s kidneys.


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