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Blood Transfusion and Conservation - Risks and Benefits

What are the risks of a blood transfusion?

  • Allergic reactions: Mild allergic reactions, such as hives or itchiness are common — about one in 300. These reactions are easily treated. Severe allergic reactions are extremely rare.
  • Fever reactions: There is a one in 100 chance of having a fever following a blood transfusion. This is fairly common in patients who have been previously transfused or are pregnant. The reaction is generally not severe and is easily treated. Patients who have had severe fever reactions with transfusions may be treated for this prior to the transfusion. You should tell your doctor if you have had a severe fever with transfusions in the past.
  • Hemolytic reactions: In very rare cases, the patient's blood destroys the donor red blood cells. This is called hemolysis. The chance of an acute hemolytic reaction is one in 25,000. This can be severe and may result in bleeding and in kidney failure. However, complications can usually be prevented by medical treatment.
  • Transmissible infections: The risk of chronic infection, injury or death from transfusion trasmitted infections is very small but the risk cannot be completely removed by available testing. All volunteer donor blood is screed for infectious diseases. In addition, the donors have undergone a screening process to become eligible to donate. Donated blood is tested for haptitis, HIV or the AIDS virus, and other infectious agents. Only blood that tests negative for infectious agents is allowed to be used.

What are the risks of not having a transfusion?
When your body has lost so many red blood cells that your body is not getting enough oxygen, you run the risk of damaging vital organs such as the brain or heart. Transfusion may be necessary to prevent such damage, which can cause serious injury, permanent handicap or death.Your physician/surgeon or anaesthetist will recommend when transfusion is needed based on your individual case.