A blood transfusion occurs when someone’s blood is supplemented by or replaced with the blood of someone else, or blood previously donated by the patient himself, typically through an intravenous line. Blood transfusions are common medical procedures.
Transfusions are most common when someone has lost blood during surgery, due to an accident, or as a result of a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia. They are also used during other circumstances, such as when blood is contaminated due to a liver malfunction.
Whole blood transfusions, which replace all four of the foregoing blood components, are relatively unusual. Most transfusions will replace or supplement one or more blood components – blood platelets, for example.
The most important preliminary step in performing a blood transfusion is to test the blood to determine its type. Since there is no such thing as synthetic blood, you will have to rely on the donated blood, and the donated blood must be compatible with your blood type. Transfusing the wrong blood type could result in serious consequences, including death.
It is important that you inform your doctor if you have ever had a blood transfusion before.
If you know about the transfusion long enough in advance (for example, if you have surgery scheduled several weeks from now), you can donate your own blood for the transfusion. If not, then you will have to rely on blood donated by strangers. It is critical that your health care provider double check to make sure you are getting the right type of blood.
The entire procedure should take one to four hours. An IV line will be inserted into one of your blood vessels, and the donated blood will be transferred from a plastic bag into the IV line into your blood vessel. The donated blood that’s been stored in a plastic bag enters your bloodstream through the IV. You will be sitting or lying down throughout the entire procedure.
A nurse will be supervising the entire procedure. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature will be monitored. Make sure to inform the nurse immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
After the needle and IV line are removed, you may develop a bruise around the insertion site that causes a certain amount of soreness. This is normal, but it should only last for a few days. Some patients develop chest pain, back pain, or shortness of breath in the days following their transfusion; contact your doctor immediately if this happens to you.
Your doctor will probably conduct additional blood testing to make sure your body is responding appropriately to the donated blood. Depending on your condition, you may need more than one transfusion.
Blood transfusions are sometimes (but not always) dangerous. In some cases, the choices are stark – the patient will almost certainly die without a transfusion, but may very well die because of a transfusion. In some cases, death is unavoidable. In other cases, however, death or serious complications are the results of medical negligence.
Risk factors associated with blood transfusions include:
Blood transfusion errors can cause grave consequences such as infections, including blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. The transfusion of contaminated blood, however, is relatively rare, since blood samples are carefully screened before they are used.
Since 2005, it has been mandatory for health care providers to report any serious adverse reactions to blood transfusions that can be attributable to the quality or safety of blood. The most common cause of transfusion-related deaths is acute lung injury. The following are some of the most common transfusion-related complications:
The following are the risks of contracting certain blood-borne illnesses as a result of a transfusion:
Sharing unsterilized needles with other users, as recreational drug users do, lowers these odds by several orders of magnitude.
One of the most overlooked delays in blood transfusions is not inappropriately administered blood transfusions, but inappropriately delayed blood transfusions, which can often be fatal. If you are an average-sized adult, your body contains about six quarts of blood. If you lose enough of it, you will sicken and die without a blood transfusion.
If these symptoms are not quickly identified by a healthcare professional, you may experience multiple organ failure. This type of crisis often occurs during childbirth, accidents, and among people with blood clotting disorders
Prior to performing a blood transfusion, fluids other than blood are typically inserted into your bloodstream to keep your heart pumping and to prevent it from collapsing. These are stopgap measures. A transfusion must occur soon afterwards to keep you alive since oxygenated blood must reach the tissues to keep them from dying or you from suffering severe brain damage.
Certain religious groups, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, object to blood transfusions on religious grounds. What should a doctor do if his patient, who may die without a blood transfusion, refuses to consent to one on religious grounds?
The general rule is that, at least if a written advance directive exists that specifically excludes blood transfusions, a doctor has no right to impose a blood transfusion upon a mentally competent adult patient – even if failure to perform the transfusion will result in the death of the patient. Failure to honor the patient’s wishes can lead to criminal charges against the doctor.
A parent has no right to refuse a blood transfusion on behalf of his child, even for religious reasons. This means that a doctor is free, even duty-bound, to perform a transfusion upon a child, even over his parent’s objections and over the objections of the child himself.
What if the doctor himself is a Jehovah’s Witness or otherwise objects to blood transfusions or religious grounds? Except in emergency situations, a doctor has the right to refuse to perform a blood transfusion based on his own religious objections, as long as he can find a colleague to perform the procedure in his stead. If he cannot, and if the situation is a life or death emergency, he might be duty-bound to perform the transfusion despite his religious objections.
If you believe that you have been harmed by a blood transfusion, you need to retain an experienced malpractice attorney before you are even certain that malpractice occurred at all. After all, it may take an investigation to determine whether or not malpractice was the culprit.
Contact us Berkowitz Hanna today by calling one of our offices in Stamford, Danbury, Bridgeport, or Shelton. Otherwise, simply contact us online. Either way, we can provide you with a free case consultation. Remember this much: We won’t charge you a dime unless we win your case.