What are blood transfusion risks?

The healthcare industry work hard to ensure the safety of blood used in transfusions. Blood banks ask potential donors questions about their health, behavior and travel history. Only the people who pass the blood donor requirements can donate blood. Donated blood is tested according to national guidelines. If there is any question that the blood is not safe, it is thrown away.

Even with these precautions, there’s a small chance something will go undetected in the screening process. However, the odds of this happening are very small. For example, your chances of getting certain diseases from a transfusion are:

  • HIV: 1 in 1.5 million donations.
  • Hepatitis C: 1 in 1.2 million donations.
  • Hepatitis B: 1 in 293,000 donations.
  • Bacterial contamination: 1 in 100,000 transfusions.

You’re more likely to get struck by lightning than to get a disease from a transfusion. The precautions healthcare workers take have helped make transfusions very safe.

What kind of reactions can happen from a blood transfusion?

People can react in various ways to blood transfusions. Reactions people experience may include:

  • Breathing troubles.
  • Fevers, chills or rashes.
  • Hemolytic transfusion reaction (your immune system tries to destroy transfused red blood cells).

Most people don’t have any of these reactions. When they do happen, they often feel like allergies. If you experience unusual symptoms during a transfusion, tell your healthcare provider. Stopping the transfusion or getting certain medications can provide relief.

What are the benefits of a blood transfusion?

Blood is important. If you don’t have enough blood or one of the components of blood, you could face a life-threatening situation. Blood and the components of blood benefit the body in these ways:

  • Red blood cells carry oxygen through your body to your heart and brain. Adequate oxygen is very important to maintain life.
  • Platelets help to prevent or control bleeding due to low platelet count.
  • Plasma and cryoprecipitate also help to prevent or control bleeding.

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