What Is A Blood Transfusion Reaction And Why Does It Happen?

What Is A Blood Transfusion Reaction And Why Does It Happen?

Blood transfusion is a very common phenomenon in medical processes and is often required by patients suffering from blood-related diseases. In some cases, it is also required to have lost a lot of blood due to reasons like an accident or surgery. In some cases, the transfusion of blood is not very successful and develops a reaction. We will discuss in detail about blood transfusion reaction, and why does it happen?

Blood Transfusion

We all have heard about blood transfusion in our lives somewhere or the other. A very common phenomenon requires the blood to be transfused into a patient’s body who might be suffering from a disease where the loss of blood happens, or blood does not form at all. It is also required by people who have had a severe loss of blood during an accident, a surgery, or any other injury. In some cases, a person might require just the parts of blood to be transfused like-Red blood cells (RBCs) or platelets. Blood transfusion is required in-

  • Diseases like thalassemia and leukemia prevent the normal manufacture of Red blood cells and platelets, resulting in anemia.
  • Hemophilia and thrombocytopenia are diseases related to bleeding disorders.
  • Anemia causes iron deficiency due to the lack of hemoglobin.
  • A liver disease that prevents the body from making blood or parts of it.

Blood Transfusion Reaction

A doctor can commonly suggest transfusion of blood to its patients in various medical conditions. Before blood or its component is transfused into the patient’s body, it is thoroughly checked for its blood group, type, and compatibility with its blood type.

A blood transfusion reaction is a complex condition in which the blood transfused’s red blood cells are destroyed by the patient’s immune system. Our blood’s red blood cells have antigens corresponding to our blood type or group (A+, A-, B+, B-, O+, O-, AB+, AB-). If a wrong blood group or type is transfused into the body, the immune system detects the blood’s foreign antigen bodies and destroys them.

Symptoms of Blood Transfusion Reaction

While most of the transfusion reactions surface while the transfusion is still on, others can show up even months later. The symptoms can be-

  • Chills
  • Back pain
  • Fever
  • Flushing of skin
  • Blood in urine
  • Dizziness or fainting

Why does a Blood Transfusion Reaction happen?

Matured people with moderate heartbeat rates are regularly endorsed to have a pacemaker. Individuals with other ailments like electrolyte unevenness or hypothyroidism can undoubtedly treat a moderate heartbeat rate by treating them with medications. Some several factors and symptoms can lead to blood transfusion. The following are a few cases where your doctor can advise for blood transfusion-

  1. In cases of mismatched blood being transfused, the antibodies present in the recipient’s blood can attack the one’s presence in the donor’s blood. A hemolytic reaction is one in which the recipient’s immune system attacks the red blood cells present in the blood transfused.
  2. But if the recipient’s immune system attacks the white blood cells of the donor’s blood, the reaction is called a febrile reaction.
  3. One can also have an allergic reaction to the blood transfusion itself. The symptoms of such an allergy are itching and skin eruptions (hives). It is usually treated with antihistamines.
  4. In some cases, though very rare, the blood donated may be contaminated with bacteria. This can lead to an infection in the recipient’s body.
  5. A transfusion reaction, known as circulatory overload, happens when a person is transfused with too much blood. The heart gets under a lot of pressure with too much blood to be pumped through the body.
  6. Another reaction in which the recipient gets an overload of iron from the extra iron in the donor’s blood tends to damage his heart and liver.
  7. TRALI or transfusion-related acute lung injury is the result of another form of transfusion reaction. It causes damage to the recipient’s lungs’ cells by the antibodies present in the donor’s plasma. Due to this, the lungs get filled with a fluid preventing its proper functioning. Such a reaction generally surfaces within six hours of blood transfusion.

Result of Blood Transfusion Reaction

Though it is common to have some symptoms in case of a blood transfusion like chills and fever, others can be life-threatening like-

  • Kidney failure
  • Anemia
  • Problems related to the lungs.
  • Shock, due to the lack of sufficient blood flow.


Any blood bank has a huge responsibility and takes enough precautions already to avoid any accident.

  1. They label the blood sample collected appropriately.
  2. The blood is screened and tested for any infections.
  3. The blood samples of the donor and the recipient are mixed to check their compatibility.
  4. The labels are cross-checked and blood types verified before the final transfusion is made.

Treating Transfusion Reaction

In case of a transfusion reaction, any doctor would do the first thing to stop the blood transfusion immediately. A blood sample must be taken from the recipient’s body and matched with the donor’s blood to check their compatibility. In case of a mild reaction, acetaminophen can be used for the treatment. It reduces the fever or pain if any.

The priority is to prevent any shock, kidney, or lung failure that may turn fatal. The doctor often suggests medication or intravenous fluids for the same. It is advisable to replace the blood of the donor with normal saline. All efforts should be undertaken to achieve an output of urine at 30-100 mL/h. The oxygen levels should be monitored. Any supplemental oxygen, if required, should be provided to maintain saturation of oxygen above 92%.

Though the process of blood transfusion is life-saving, yet it comes with its possibility of risks. In earlier times, infections were the only and the most common form of risk associated with the transfusion. But with modern-day testing and screenings, they have become quite rare. The transfusion reactions are the biggest concerns after a few non-infectious diseases today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.