Blood transfusions are fairly common. Approximately 5 million people in the United States will have a blood transfusion each year. Most patients are concerned about potential transmission of a blood-borne infection when receiving a blood transfusion, but the risk of contracting a serious infection, from a virus like HIV or hepatitis C, has diminished significantly in the past few years, through programs that screen both donors and their blood.
Another risk has not diminished, and it is life-threatening. Transfusion of the wrong blood type can result in mild illness, or it may result in more significant medical problems, including shock, kidney failure, and death.
It is estimated that there are approximately 400 blood transfusion errors in the US each year, and they result from simple human error and a breakdown in safety procedures.
Some reasons for transfusion errors include the failure of staff to verify the identity of a patient who is getting a transfusion, or failure to verify that the blood unit is a correct match for the patient. This may result from poor training or can occur when blood samples for multiple patients are processed at the same time. If blood is improperly stored, it can result in a bad outcome, and a bad outcome can only get worse if medical personnel do not recognize the symptoms of an adverse reaction in a patient who is getting a transfusion.
Some transfusion errors may not be reported, in cases when the patient receives the wrong blood, but it happens to be the same type as his own. Group O negative blood can be transfused successfully into many patients, so an error of identification may go unnoticed.
Patients who receive the wrong blood type generally have an adverse reaction, which will range in severity from a mild reaction to a life-threatening reaction.
Some symptoms of an incompatibility reaction due to a transfusion include fever, chills, nausea, body aches, drop or rise in blood pressure, shock, shortness of breath, and kidney failure.
If you receive blood that is incompatible with your own, the antibodies in your own blood will destroy the new red blood cells as they are transfused. This can result in clotting in the blood vessels, which may block the supply of oxygen-carrying blood to your vital organs. This can result in a stroke or a heart attack. When red blood cells are destroyed, their contents travel to the kidneys, and may accumulate, resulting in damage and possible kidney failure.
Many people who undergo a blood transfusion are already very ill. They may have been in an accident or may have undergone surgery. In these cases, it may be more difficult for a healthcare provider to recognize changes in their condition that are the result of the blood transfusion. This is why it is so important for medical staff members to carefully monitor all patients by checking vital signs after a blood transfusion.
A blood transfusion is a life-saving measure. Blood carries oxygen from the lungs throughout the body, supplying necessary oxygen and nutrients to allow all cells and body organs to function. Blood can be life-saving, but a transfusion can also be an unexpected source of serious injury. Every institution should have procedures and checklists in place to ensure the safety of your transfusion. You have the right to expect your healthcare provider to handle your blood transfusion safety. A careless error can result in sickness and death.
If you or a loved one has been harmed as the result of a blood transfusion, you should contact a top Chicago medical malpractice attorney today for a free review of your case. You have the right to expect your blood transfusion to occur smoothly and without complications, and if negligence has resulted in a transfusion reaction, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Call us today for an evaluation of your blood transfusion case.