A blood transfusion is a procedure in which additional blood, either donated from another person or drawn from the patient in advance and stored, is added intravenously into the body. It is performed for a wide range of reasons, including diseases affecting levels of blood or blood cell counts, as well as injuries or surgeries resulting in blood loss. Although the procedure is common and generally considered safe, blood transfusion side effects may occur.
One of the most common blood transfusion side effects is a fever. This side effect is generally considered normal and not life-threatening if it occurs after the procedure. Fever is thought to occur because of the body becoming accustomed to additional white blood cells from the transfusion. If a fever comes on suddenly during the procedure or immediately after, it could be a more serious sign of the body having an adverse reaction to the donated blood.
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An allergic reaction is another one of the possible blood transfusion side effects. The blood that is added intravenously into the body is the same blood type as the patient’s blood; however, a person can still experience an allergic reaction once the new blood is added. Signs of this reaction include itchiness and rash on the skin. Generally allergic reactions after transfusions are not considered dangerous and can usually be treated with the use of antihistamine medications.
Another one of the possible blood transfusion side effects that may occur is an infection, disease, or virus transmitted from the donated blood. Although donated blood for transfusions is tested for infections and diseases prior to being approved for use in the procedure, there may still be a risk of contracting certain infections. People who have blood transfusions may be at a higher risk of certain conditions, such as hepatitis B and C, human lymphocytotrophic virus, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
A condition known as transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) can possibly develop after a blood transfusion. The exact cause behind this condition is not known for certain. When TRALI develops, it usually occurs within six hours of a transfusion and results in damage to the lungs. This lung damage can cause difficulty breathing in patients after the procedure. It is usually treatable with the use of oxygen and mechanical ventilation; however, if patients were in ill health prior to the procedure, they may not be able to recover as easily and the condition could be fatal.