Blood transfusion is a common medical procedure, wherein, the blood or blood component from a healthy person is introduced intravenously into the bloodstream of a patient. Basically, it is performed to replace excess loss of blood after surgery or accidental injuries. Patients who have undergone cancer treatment or bone marrow transplantation, are in need of this procedure. Those diagnosed with blood disorders or sickle-cell anemia require the transfusion on a regular basis.
An individual who gives blood is known as the donor, while the person who receives blood is called the recipient. Blood transfusion is a relatively safe method, provided that certain guidelines are followed prior to starting the procedure. However, in case of any negligence, there are certain side effects, in which, both, the donor and the recipient are at a risk of developing unusual symptoms during or after the procedure.
A prospective blood donor should be healthy and free of communicable diseases. The blood type of the recipient should match with that of the donor. In the procedure, a small tube called cannula is used to transfer stored blood from a bag to the patient. Transfusion is started within half an hour after the removal of blood unit (or bag) from controlled conditions. In general, a unit containing 500 ml of blood is transfused within a time interval of 4 hours.
Depending upon the source of blood, transfusion is classified into two types, viz. autologous and homologous blood transfusion. In the former case, the patient uses his/her own blood that is stored beforehand; whereas, in the latter type, the patient receives stored blood from other donors. If available, autologous transfusion is safer than homologous type.
In the present day scenario, hospitals and private organizations maintain blood banks, from which, you can purchase blood at times of emergency. The donated blood is screened carefully to examine the blood group and presence of any infectious pathogens. After screening, blood is then stored in controlled conditions to prevent microbial infestation and also, to slow down cellular metabolism. As mentioned already, the side effects of this procedure are very rare. Many people, either the donor or recipient, do not develop any unusual complications as such. If manifested, the symptoms are mild and subside gradually within a few days. Some of the probable risk factors and dangers of blood transfusion are listed below:
Fever - Chills and fever are the most frequently reported side effects. They are not serious problems and can be combated with prescription medications. However, if high temperature persists for more than 2 days, consulting a qualified physician is imperative to avoid further medical complications.
Allergic Reactions - Skin disorders, inflammation, hives, and wheezing are some of the allergic reactions observed by the recipient. Allergic reactions are caused due to the body's immune responses towards the donated blood. An effective antihistamine medication may be advocated to treat such reactions.
Alloimmunization - In patients who have received frequent transfusions, the body produces antibodies to attack the transfused blood cells, which is called alloimmunization. To avoid such a medical condition, the patient may be given blood without white blood cells and/or antigens.
Hemolytic Reaction - In hemolytic reaction, the antibodies of the recipient fight against the transfused blood cells. In brief, the blood type of the recipient is different from that of the donor. Signs of hemolytic reaction include, chills, fever, nausea, rapid heartbeat, and jaundice. If the hemolytic reaction is acute, then these symptoms are manifested within several days or weeks after transfusion.
Infectious Diseases - Infections is another worst side effect. To be more precise, there are certain diseases that can be transmitted from one person to another through blood. For example, serious viral ailments such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV/AIDS) and hepatitis are spread via blood transfusion.
Transfusion-Related Acute Lung Injury (TRALI) - In TRALI, the blood recipient develops very high fever and at times, shortness of breath. Transfusion related acute lung injury is seldom observed, but it is life-threatening. People who are very weak, are at a higher risk of developing this medical emergency compared to other patients.
Graft-Versus-Host-Disease (GVHD) - In patients who have a compromised immune system, the white blood cells present in the donor's blood attack the tissues, resulting in various symptoms. Such a problem is called GVHD. Patients who receive blood from relatives also have a higher chance of manifesting graft versus host disease than others. This is because the blood donor and the recipient have similar tissue types.
In a nutshell, these side effects are avoidable as long as the recommended guidelines and screening processes are done correctly. Medical researches are ongoing to find a replacement for blood transfusion. As of date, no alternatives for blood have been found, but there are medications that help promote the body to produce more blood cells.