Side Effects of Blood Transfusion

Side Effects of Blood Transfusion


Blood transfusion is a process of injecting a volume of blood or blood products, taken from a healthy person, into the blood stream of a person receiving medical treatment.

Blood transfusion is life saving as it adds donated blood to your own blood. It restores blood that is lost in the body.

Blood can be lost through:

  • Injury
  • Diseases
  • Burns
  • Infections
  • Surgery

Blood transfusion is commonly done for blood components, such as, platelets, red blood cells, and plasma. It is important for the blood of the donor to be screened before transfusion.

Patients that have received blood transfusion, don’t experience complications frequently. Though,mminor to serious problems do happen sometimes.

There are different blood types that exists. They are:

  • A positive
  • A negative
  • O positive
  • O negative
  • B positive
  • B negative
  • AB positive
  • AB negative

It is important to know your blood type. If you are given the wrong type of blood, your immune system will detect any foreign protein on the red blood cells of the blood you have received, and will try to destroy them. This is known as hemolytic reaction. This normally happen during or right after the blood transfusion.

Side Effects of Blood Transfusion


This is a common sign that shows that a person is experiencing an adverse effect. It is thought to be caused by recipient antibodies reacting with white cell antigens or due to cytokines (secreted proteins released by cells) accumulated in the blood product during storage.

Fever is a temporary increase in body temperature of 37°C (98.6°F), also known as pyrexia. Fever after a transfusion may not be serious. It is your body’s response to the white blood cells in the transfused blood. It can however be a sign of a serious reaction if the patient is also experiencing chest pain and nausea.


This is a symptom of transfusion-associated graft versus host disease (TAGVHD), an example of delayed transferred reaction. TAGVHD occurs when a type of white blood cell from the donor’s blood increases rapidly in the body of the recipient. They attack the cells of the recipient.

Rash is the change of skin colour or texture. This reaction can be mild. Your skin may be itchy, irritated, scaly, bumpy, chapped, and painful. It can be on one part of the body, or affect all the skin. Some people may experience this simple allergic reaction, even after receiving the right blood type.


This is a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high. The transfusion of red blood cells results in a significant arterial pressure and systemic vascular resistance. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a symptom of a delayed hemolytic or delayed serologic transfusion reaction. This reaction occurs when an antibody in the recipient’s body reforms and reacts to red cell antigens of the donor. Reactions can arise from day 1 to 4 weeks. These antibodies can be acquired through transfusions, and it decreases to undetectable levels over time. This reaction can be severe.


Chills are the sensation of feeling cold, shivering or shaking, though not necessarily in a cold environment, and often associated with a fever. This is a common symptom and can have a mild reaction. Chills is a symptom of an acute hemolytic
transfusion reaction, an example of acute transfusion reactions.

This reaction occurs during, immediately, or within 24 hours of transfusion, most especially when the wrong blood type is given to a recipient. If an individual develops an acute hemolytic transfusion reaction during blood transfusion, the doctor or nurse will stop the transfusion.


Dark urine is also a symptom of delayed serologic transfusion reaction. It can be caused by hemolytic anemia. Hemolytic anemia is a disorder in which the body destroys red blood cells faster than they can be made. The process of destruction of the red blood cells is called hemolysis.

Hemolytic anemia can sometimes occur after blood transfusion. This transfusion reaction can be mild, and it’s important to stay hydrated.


This is a symptom of transfusion-associate circulatory overload (TACO). Shortness of breath also known as dyspnea is a difficulty in breathing, can’t catch your breath or get enough air. This happens when a person’s circulatory system is not able to process the amount of blood or the speed at which they are receiving it. People who have heart or kidney conditions may develop it.

In TACO, the circulatory system becomes overwhelmed, resulting in pulmonary edema where the lungs is filled up with excess fluid. This symptom usually occur within 4-6 hours of or during the transfusion. The prevalence of this reaction is 6% in critically ill patients.


Renal failure (also called kidney failure) is a condition in which one or both kidneys lose the ability to remove waste and balance fluids. It is a symptom of acute hemolytic transfusion reaction. This type of reaction occurs when a person has
received a wrong blood type.

Acute hemolytic transfusion reaction causes the body to start destroying red blood cells that have been donated to the body. The symptoms of this reaction occurs during or within 24 hours of transfusion. It can be potentially fatal.


Blue lips is caused by lack of oxygen in the blood or poor blood circulation. Blood rich in oxygen is bright red, while blood with low oxygen levels is dark red, blue or purple. This shows through the skin and mucus membranes.

Blue lips is a symptom of anaphylactic transfusion reaction which occurs in those with immunoglobulin A (IgA) deficiency, and also have the antibodies in their plasma. This reaction occurs seconds to minutes at the beginning of the transfusion and it can be severe.


This is an acute transfusion reaction. It occurs during or within 4 hours of transfusion. Itching is an irritating sensation which creates the urge to scratch. This can be uncomfortable and can involve any part of your body. This symptom can be resolved with little or no treatment. The severity of this symptom can be mild.


This is also a symptom of anaphylactic transfusion reaction. Diarrhea is a condition of having a loose, watery stool and a more frequent bowel movement. The anti-IgA antibodies in the blood of the recipient can react with the IgA antibodies in the blood of the donor. 1 in 20,000–30,000 transfusions is likely to develop this symptom, and it can be potentially fatal.

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