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Signs And Symptoms Of Blood Transfusion Reaction

by Annabel Caldwell
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Signs And Symptoms Of Blood Transfusion Reaction

Signs And Symptoms Of Blood Transfusion Reaction

The most common signs and symptoms include fever, chills, urticaria (hives), and itching. Some symptoms resolve with little or no treatment. However, respiratory distress, high fever, hypotension (low blood pressure), and red urine (hemoglobinuria) can indicate a more serious reaction

Blood is the life force of our body. It transports oxygen and nutrients to all organs and tissues in order for them to function properly. In addition, it carries away metabolic waste products from these same vital organs and tissues so that they may be regenerated and renewed. In other words, blood serves as an internal cleansing system, removing toxins and disease-causing agents throughout your entire body.
Every year, approximately 7 million units of whole blood are collected worldwide. The American Red Cross alone collects about 2.5 million blood donations annually. Unfortunately, some people who receive a transfusion experience what’s known as a blood transfusion reaction. This occurs when the recipient’s immune system treats foreign substances such as antigens or cells as if they were viruses or bacteria. When this happens, white blood cells called macrophages release chemicals called cytokines which cause inflammation in the area where the substance was introduced into the bloodstream. The result is swelling, pain, tenderness, redness, heat, and even blisters at the site of the transfusion.
While most reactions occur within 24 hours of receiving a transfusion, some may take up to four days after the procedure to develop. Signs and symptoms vary depending on the type of blood product donated by the donor and the amount given. Typically, there are three types of transfusions:
Oral — Whole blood or components such as plasma, packed red blood cells, platelets, etc., administered orally through vein accesses.
Intravenous — Whole blood or components such as plasma, packed red blood cells, platelets, etc., administered intravenously via needle injection.
Intermittent — Components such as plasma, platelets, etc., administered intermittently over time through a central venous catheter placed in either arm or chest veins.
Some signs and symptoms associated with blood transfusion reactions include:
Dry mouth
Chest discomfort or tightness
Trouble breathing
Swelling of feet or hands
Burning, stinging, tingling sensations
Red spots or rash
Hair loss
Skin irritation
What causes blood transfusion reactions?
There are several different factors that could lead to a blood transfusion reaction. One potential trigger for adverse effects is the storage conditions of the blood product you received. For example, some donors donate blood only once every two weeks while others donate multiple times per week. The frequency of donation varies between individuals but generally peaks during late summer and early fall. Also, the length of time stored before transfused has been shown to affect how quickly the recipient reacts. Generally, the longer the blood sits on refrigerated shelves, the greater the chance of infection. If a person receives blood older than 14 days, he or she should not receive any additional transfusions until medical professionals have confirmed their safety.
Other possible triggers of blood transfusion reactions could involve certain medications taken prior to or following the transfusion. Medications that might interact with blood transfusions include antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, corticosteroids, diuretics, hormones, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, sedatives, stimulants, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Drugs that are metabolized by the liver may also interfere with the effectiveness of the blood transfusion. These include alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, carbamazepine, cimetidine, diazepam, fluconazole, flunitrazol, griseofulvin, methyldopa, metronidazole, phenobarbital, primaquine, probenecid, quinidine, rifampin, terfenadine, and verapamil.
Lastly, underlying health problems such as allergies, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart failure, kidney dysfunction, lung disorders, neurological disorders, pregnancy, sepsis, or trauma may increase the risk of developing a blood transfusion reaction. People with sickle cell anemia or leukemia are also at higher risks since their bodies produce abnormal hemoglobins.
Can blood transfusions be prevented?
A number of precautions are available to reduce the chances of experiencing a blood transfusion reaction. First, patients must be monitored closely for the first hour after receiving a transfusion. They’ll need to be observed for 30 minutes after each unit is given. During this period, the patient will need to remain still while his or her temperature is measured using a rectal thermometer. A nurse will watch the patient’s skin carefully for any signs of allergic reaction including hives, wheezing, difficulty breathing, or swelling of lips, face, tongue, arms, legs, or torso. Afterward, the patient will be asked to rate his or her overall well-being on a scale of one to 10 with one being “not good” and 10 being “excellent.”
Next, the patient should be checked for bleeding anywhere in the body. If there is bleeding present, the nurse should alert hospital staff immediately. Then, the patient should rest quietly and avoid strenuous activity for the remainder of the day. He or she should drink lots of fluids and take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for fever relief. Finally, the patient should contact his or doctor if symptoms worsen or persist beyond 48 hours.
For more information on blood transfusions and related topics, please see the next page.

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