Blood transfusions are life-saving procedures essential to the survival of patients in many different circumstances. In fact, studies indicate that blood transfusions save the lives of approximately five million people annually; and that 20% of hospital patients require transfusions.

The most likely recipients of blood transfusions include trauma victims, organ-transplant patients, heart surgery patients, patients treating for certain cancers, and mothers delivering their babies via C-section. Not surprisingly, almost all blood transfusions take place in operating rooms, emergency rooms, and intensive care units – all of which are busy, high-stress environments.

While there is no question that blood transfusions have life-saving benefits, they can also pose risks to those on the receiving end. When those responsible for the preparation and administration of a transfusion are negligent and fail to follow critical safety protocols and measures, a patient may suffer infection, disease, or death.  

We May Be Able To Help

If you or a loved one suffered injury or death because of a blood transfusion mistake, you should seek the advice of an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The medical malpractice attorneys at Berkowitz and Hanna LLC have extensive experience representing individuals injured because of a blood transfusion mistake.

Blood Transfusions 101

Blood transfusions involve the infusion of donated blood into a patient’s own blood supply. From start to finish, the process is complex and includes a series of steps:

  1. The blood is collected from the donor (at a blood drive, from a family member, etc.).
  2. The donated blood undergoes extensive testing for blood type as well as several medical conditions, blood-borne illnesses, and more.
  3. The blood is stored, typically at a blood bank.
  4. When called upon, the donor blood and the potential recipient’s blood are tested to ensure the types match and are compatible.
    • Two tests – a type and crossmatch – are conducted.
    • Both tests are necessary because there are instances where the blood types may match but are still incompatible (i.e., the recipient blood contains antibodies that reject the antigens in the donor’s blood).
  5. The donor blood is intravenously infused into the patient’s blood.
  6. The recipient is monitored for any signs of distress and/or an adverse reaction.

Many Opportunities for Mistakes to Happen

Mistakes leading to disastrous patient outcomes can happen at any point in the blood transfusion process. Administrative and/or medical negligence may occur in the form of the following blood transfusion mistakes:

  • Contaminating the donor blood through improper collection, storage, and/or handling
  • Improperly typing and/or screening the blood
  • MISLABELING the blood
  • Infusing the WRONG blood
  • Infusing expired blood
  • Infusing unnecessary blood, too much blood, or too little blood
  • Improperly delaying an infusion of blood
    • Often by failing to detect a patient’s degree of blood loss as indicated by vital signs, lab test results, and blood lost in surgery
  • Improperly administering the blood:
    • Using a needle that is too long or too big
    • Using non-sterile needle(s), IV tubing, gloves, etc.
    • Inserting the needle into a nerve
    • Infusing blood into wrong “space” (i.e., somewhere outside the veins)
    • “Blowing” veins through multiple failed attempts at inserting the needle(s)
  • Failing to adequately monitor the recipient patient during and after the transfusion
  • Failing to recognize a patient’s symptoms and signs of a transfusion reaction
  • Failing to react to an adverse transfusion reaction

Injuries

Not surprisingly, a blood transfusion mistake is incredibly dangerous; and it may cause severe, permanent injuries and death in a recipient patient. Generally, the injuries caused by blood transfusion errors generally fall into two categories: Infectious and Noninfectious.

  • As the name suggests, a patient suffers an infectious injury when he or she is infused with blood containing certain bacteria, parasites, and viruses, such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
  • Most injuries caused by blood transfusion mistakes are noninfectious. They occur when a recipient’s body adversely reacts to the administered blood. Examples of noninfectious injuries caused by blood transfusion errors include the following:
    • Acute Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction (AHTR)
      • This is an immune reaction that happens when the recipient’s antibodies destroy the donor blood cells.
      • AHTR may lead to anaphylactic shock, blood clotting (preventing the delivery of oxygen to vital organs), and hypovolemic shock.
      • Complications of AHTR include stroke, kidney damage/failure, heart attack, and amputation.
    • Delayed Hemolytic Reaction (DHR)
      • DHR is similar to AHTR, but the immune reaction occurs slowly over time (typically within 1-4 weeks).
    • Breathing problems
    • Iron overload
    • Hypothermia
    • Air embolus
    • Nerve damage

Who Is Liable?

If a blood transfusion mistake caused your injuries or the injuries or death of a loved one, the specific facts and evidence of your case will determine any potentially liable parties. Negligent parties can include blood storage facilities, hospitals, and members of the transfusion team, including the supervising physicians (even if they do not physically administer the blood).

Blood Transfusion Mistakes: Establishing Liability in Your Case

As with all medical malpractice cases, establishing liability in a case involving a blood transfusion mistake may be a difficult task. It may not be obvious that a mistake happened and/or who made the mistake. Moreover, it is not always possible to sufficiently prove (i.e., through expert medical opinions and testimony) that: 1) the medical team made the alleged mistake; 2) and that said mistake directly caused harm to the patient.

Berkowitz and Hanna LLC medical malpractice legal team has extensive experience reviewing and investigating potential medical malpractice cases and obtaining medical opinions regarding the facts, the applicable standard of medical care, and injury causation.  

Contact a Berkowitz and Hanna LLC Medical Malpractice Attorney to Discuss Your Case

If you or a family member has suffered an injury due to a blood transfusion mistake, the medical bills and other expenses may be crippling. You may incur unexpected treatment and rehabilitation costs. Moreover, you can suffer lost income, lost future income, as well as the loss of a loved one’s companionship.

You owe it to yourself and your family to discuss your case with a reputable, experienced attorney who specializes in medical malpractice cases. If negligence, recklessness, or intentional harm by another person or company contributed to or is the direct cause of your injuries, you may be eligible to recover financial compensation for your losses.

Our offices in Danbury, Bridgeport, and Stamford handle blood transfusion mistake cases throughout the state. Call (203) 487-5725 or contact us via our online contact form to schedule a complimentary consultation with an experienced Connecticut attorney today.