Blood Transfusion Risks


Medical risks associated with having blood transfusions; evaluating blood transfusion risks as an important part of any hospital stay that might introduce them

Except for any noted source material, content copyright, Neva. J. Howell, all rights reserved

I have read or watched on the news at least a half dozen reports on hospital error and the huge impact of human error in hospital care. From giving the wrong, and sometimes deadly, medication to a patient to huge numbers of staff infections that can be traced by to non-consistent hygiene between patients, there is A LOT of room for error.

You, as a patient in any hospital, have a right to question not only dosage but types of medications, to make sure you are getting what you are supposed to get at the dosage you are supposed to get it. Know what your meds are and how much of each you should be getting.

You further have the right to require that your nurse, doctor, or other hospital staff disinfect their hands in your presence before touching you, changing bandages, putting in IV’s or catheters or checking on previously installed IV’s or catheters.

Most recently, I’ve become aware of the huge problem of what is called off-label prescribingtoo, which is where doctors prescribe a medication for a condition it is not approved to treat, or prescribe dosages beyond the guidelines for a particular medication. If you don’t ask, you will most likely never be told if your doctor is prescribing off-label.

And I recently posted about the scandal over reusing medical syringes that has surfaced lately in several articles online and in the news.

This health alert concerns blood transfusion risks you may unknowingly face. One human error that could put you in definite danger from a transfusion is if the blood type is incorrect. You have a right to ask that the blood type be double-checked before administering the transfusion and to physically look at the writing on the bag yourself to confirm it is the correct type. However, if the bag was labeled incorrectly, another type of human error, you would have no way of knowing that but at least you know if it says on the bag that it’s your blood type you are getting.

You also have the right to be fully informed of any increased risk that may result for you from a blood transfusion and you have a right to refuse a blood transfusion.

Personally, I’d have to be convinced that I faced life-threatening consequences before I accepted a blood transfusion. This is because the risk of allergic reaction to the blood of someone other than yourself is a definite risk factor. Your risk of infection also increases with a blood transfusion, particularly if receiving a transfusion with platelets. Bacteria can grow in the platelets if stored at room temperature too long.

If a blood transfusion is just being prescribed as a precautionary measure…..you should be aware that you have the right to question getting one and to be fully informed of the risks should you accept the transfusion. More on blood transfusion risks.

The good news is that there are health screening tests that can help identify the likelyhood of an immune system reaction from a blood transfusion, and it’s important to communicate to your doctor that you want all such available screenings conducted. It’s also important to realize that the doctor can stop the blood transfusion if a reaction is noted so don’t be shy about reporting any allergic feelings you may have once the transfusion starts, including itching, wheezing, hives or any other feeling that something just is not right inside.

At the very least, talk with your doctor directly about what your increased risks of infection, death and allergic reaction may be of you get a transfusion with someone else’s blood. A good question to ask is whether the blood transfusion your doctor wants to give you is “discretionary”. That means, at the doctor’s discretion. It’s a grey area.

Also, ask what your hemoglobin levels are as this can be an indicator of whether there is urgent need to a transfusion or if it’s just the doctor playing it “safe” or using discretion to prescribe an expensive transfusion that, in addition to increasing your risks for allergic and immune system reactions, also can increase inflammation….something no one who just has surgery wants more of as they recover. If your hemoglobin level is above 9 g/dL then, according to an online magazine written for physicians, Pulmonary Reviews, blood transfusion risks may be discretionary.


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