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Blood Transfusions: Errors and Complications

Written by Berkowitz

Connecticut Medical Malpractice Lawyers - Berkowitz and Hanna LLCBlood transfusions are extremely important, and potentially life-saving medical procedures. Though not highly common, transfusion errors can have fatal consequences. A recent study tracking hospital transfusions from 2005 to 2010 found that 60 percent of errors occurred during the actual transfusion, while the remaining 40 percent occurred in clinical services (handling, labeling, and transportation of samples). The two most common mistakes identified in the study were sample labeling and inappropriate ordering of blood. Complications may occur as early as during the transfusion or as delayed as months or years later.

Potential Complications

  • Febrile Transfusion Reaction – This complication typically occurs shortly after the transfusion begins. The patient experiences an accelerated fever spike, accompanied by chills, shaking, increased blood pressure, increased respiration, anxiety, and headache.
  • Acute Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction (AHTR) – This occurs when the wrong blood type is transfused. The recipient’s body rejects and then attacks the red blood cells of the incompatible donated blood. As the donated blood cells die, they release a substance harmful to the kidneys. This process happens quickly after the start of the transfusion, with symptoms including low back and chest pain, nausea, fever, and chills. AHTR is potentially life-threatening.
  • Delayed Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction (DHTR) – Like acute hemolytic transfusion reaction, DHTR occurs when the wrong blood type is transfused into the recipient’s system. However, with DHTR, the rejection and attack on the donor cells happen gradually, generally taking one to four weeks to cause symptoms.
  • Transfusion-related Lung Injury (TRALI) – Not fully understood by medical experts, this reaction involves antibodies within the blood and affects the lungs. It can make breathing extremely difficult. TRALI symptoms usually present within one to six hours after the transfusion. Fatalities typically only occur among patients with certain pre-existing conditions.
  • Blood-borne infections – Failure to screen properly for contaminated blood may result in blood-borne infections including HIV, hepatitis B and C, West Nile virus, parasites, and bacterial infections. Symptoms of these may not present until weeks or months after the transfusion.
  • Iron overload – Multiple transfusions may result in hemochromatosis, or iron overload. This can result in serious damage to the heart and lungs.

Transfusion Errors

While transfusion errors can have numerous causes, the majority of transfusion errors result from mistakes made by doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. If you contract an illness or suffer a harmful medical condition as a result of a mistake made during your procedure, you may have a claim for medical malpractice. Some of the more common examples of mistakes that can give rise to malpractice claims include:

  • Blood contamination resulting from improper storage.
  • Failing to follow transfusion protocols, which can lead to clotting or cause bubbles to form in the blood.
  • Improper labeling or misreading of labels, resulting in administration of the wrong blood type.
  • Improper screening, resulting in transfusion of contaminated blood.
  • Patient misidentification.
  • Performance of unnecessary blood transfusions.
  • Other procedural and administrative errors resulting in administration of the wrong blood type or contaminated blood.

Berkowitz and Hanna LLC – Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Medical conditions resulting from blood transfusion errors can result in serious, debilitating, and life-threatening medical issues. If you have experienced pain and suffering, incurred medical expenses, or missed time from work due to a blood transfusion error, contacting a medical malpractice attorney may be in your best interests.

At Berkowitz and Hanna LLC, we have a long history of experience helping clients obtain financial compensation for medical malpractice. Our attorneys have extensive experience in the field, with a seasoned understanding of how to effectively pursue claims maximum compensation. To find out if you may have a claim for medical malpractice as a result of a blood transfusion error, contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today for a free consultation. We will be by your side every step of the way.