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Transfusion Reactions

Transfusion-related complications occur during or after a blood product Product A molecule created by the enzymatic reaction. Basics of Enzymes is given. These complications can be classified as immunologic or non-immunologic, and as acute or delayed. Non-immunologic reactions are caused by the transmission of disease in blood products, and immunologic reactions are antigen-antibody-mediated. Symptoms can range from mild itching, chills Chills The sudden sensation of being cold. It may be accompanied by shivering. Fever, and urticaria Urticaria Urticaria is raised, well-circumscribed areas (wheals) of edema (swelling) and erythema (redness) involving the dermis and epidermis with associated pruritus (itch). Urticaria is not a single disease but rather is a reaction pattern representing cutaneous mast cell degranulation. Urticaria (Hives) ( hives Hives Urticaria is raised, well-circumscribed areas (wheals) of edema (swelling) and erythema (redness) involving the dermis and epidermis with associated pruritus (itch). Urticaria is not a single disease but rather is a reaction pattern representing cutaneous mast cell degranulation. Urticaria (Hives)) to high fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever, severe shortness of breath Shortness of breath Dyspnea is the subjective sensation of breathing discomfort. Dyspnea is a normal manifestation of heavy physical or psychological exertion, but also may be caused by underlying conditions (both pulmonary and extrapulmonary). Dyspnea, jaundice Jaundice Jaundice is the abnormal yellowing of the skin and/or sclera caused by the accumulation of bilirubin. Hyperbilirubinemia is caused by either an increase in bilirubin production or a decrease in the hepatic uptake, conjugation, or excretion of bilirubin. Jaundice, hypotension Hypotension Hypotension is defined as low blood pressure, specifically < 90/60 mm Hg, and is most commonly a physiologic response. Hypotension may be mild, serious, or life threatening, depending on the cause. Hypotension, or hemoglobinuria. Severe reactions can lead to death.

Last updated: 31 May, 2022

Editorial responsibility: Stanley Oiseth, Lindsay Jones, Evelin Maza

Hemolytic Reactions

Acute hemolytic transfusion reaction

  • Definition: hemolytic transfusion reaction occurring during the transfusion or within 24 hours of the transfusion
  • Etiology:
    • Type II hypersensitivity reaction Type II hypersensitivity reaction Type II hypersensitivity, also known as antibody-mediated cytotoxic hypersensitivity, is caused by immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgM antibodies directed against antigens on cells or extracellular materials. The reaction leads to cytotoxic processes involving antibodies and the complement system. Type II Hypersensitivity Reaction→ targets the transfused RBCs RBCs Erythrocytes, or red blood cells (RBCs), are the most abundant cells in the blood. While erythrocytes in the fetus are initially produced in the yolk sac then the liver, the bone marrow eventually becomes the main site of production. Erythrocytes: Histology
    • ABO blood group incompatibility causes intravascular hemolysis Intravascular hemolysis Hemolytic Anemia.
    • Host’s own antibodies Antibodies Immunoglobulins (Igs), also known as antibodies, are glycoprotein molecules produced by plasma cells that act in immune responses by recognizing and binding particular antigens. The various Ig classes are IgG (the most abundant), IgM, IgE, IgD, and IgA, which differ in their biologic features, structure, target specificity, and distribution. Immunoglobulins: Types and Functions (immunoglobulin G ( IgG IgG The major immunoglobulin isotype class in normal human serum. There are several isotype subclasses of igg, for example, igg1, igg2a, and igg2b. Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis)) detect and bind BIND Hyperbilirubinemia of the Newborn to antigens on donor RBCs RBCs Erythrocytes, or red blood cells (RBCs), are the most abundant cells in the blood. While erythrocytes in the fetus are initially produced in the yolk sac then the liver, the bone marrow eventually becomes the main site of production. Erythrocytes: Histology, causing extravascular hemolysis Extravascular hemolysis Hemolytic Anemia.  
  • Signs and symptoms:
    • Start during the transfusion or within 1 hour after
    • Tachycardia Tachycardia Abnormally rapid heartbeat, usually with a heart rate above 100 beats per minute for adults. Tachycardia accompanied by disturbance in the cardiac depolarization (cardiac arrhythmia) is called tachyarrhythmia. Sepsis in Children
    • Tachypnea Tachypnea Increased respiratory rate. Pulmonary Examination
    • Hypotension Hypotension Hypotension is defined as low blood pressure, specifically < 90/60 mm Hg, and is most commonly a physiologic response. Hypotension may be mild, serious, or life threatening, depending on the cause. Hypotension
    • Flank pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways
    • Symptoms of DIC DIC Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) is a condition characterized by systemic bodywide activation of the coagulation cascade. This cascade results in both widespread microvascular thrombi contributing to multiple organ dysfunction and consumption of clotting factors and platelets, leading to hemorrhage. Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (i.e., mucosal bleeding Mucosal bleeding Chédiak-Higashi Syndrome, IV site bleeding)
    • Hemoglobinuria due to intravascular hemolysis Intravascular hemolysis Hemolytic Anemia
    • Jaundice Jaundice Jaundice is the abnormal yellowing of the skin and/or sclera caused by the accumulation of bilirubin. Hyperbilirubinemia is caused by either an increase in bilirubin production or a decrease in the hepatic uptake, conjugation, or excretion of bilirubin. Jaundice due to the extravascular hemolysis Extravascular hemolysis Hemolytic Anemia (yellowing of the sclera Sclera The white, opaque, fibrous, outer tunic of the eyeball, covering it entirely excepting the segment covered anteriorly by the cornea. It is essentially avascular but contains apertures for vessels, lymphatics, and nerves. Eye: Anatomy and skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Skin: Structure and Functions)
    • Fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever and chills Chills The sudden sensation of being cold. It may be accompanied by shivering. Fever
  • Management: 
    • Immediate cessation of transfusion 
    • Repeat typing and crossmatching to identify cause and record to prevent future reactions.
    • Supportive care:
      • Infusion of IV fluids IV fluids Intravenous fluids are one of the most common interventions administered in medicine to approximate physiologic bodily fluids. Intravenous fluids are divided into 2 categories: crystalloid and colloid solutions. Intravenous fluids have a wide variety of indications, including intravascular volume expansion, electrolyte manipulation, and maintenance fluids. Intravenous Fluids to aid diuresis
      • Hypotension Hypotension Hypotension is defined as low blood pressure, specifically < 90/60 mm Hg, and is most commonly a physiologic response. Hypotension may be mild, serious, or life threatening, depending on the cause. Hypotension managed with IV fluids IV fluids Intravenous fluids are one of the most common interventions administered in medicine to approximate physiologic bodily fluids. Intravenous fluids are divided into 2 categories: crystalloid and colloid solutions. Intravenous fluids have a wide variety of indications, including intravascular volume expansion, electrolyte manipulation, and maintenance fluids. Intravenous Fluids and vasopressors Vasopressors Sepsis in Children 
      • In case of disseminated intravascular coagulation Disseminated intravascular coagulation Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) is a condition characterized by systemic bodywide activation of the coagulation cascade. This cascade results in both widespread microvascular thrombi contributing to multiple organ dysfunction and consumption of clotting factors and platelets, leading to hemorrhage. Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation ( DIC DIC Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) is a condition characterized by systemic bodywide activation of the coagulation cascade. This cascade results in both widespread microvascular thrombi contributing to multiple organ dysfunction and consumption of clotting factors and platelets, leading to hemorrhage. Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation): Perform coagulation studies Coagulation studies Coagulation studies are a group of hematologic laboratory studies that reflect the function of blood vessels, platelets, and coagulation factors, which all interact with one another to achieve hemostasis. Coagulation studies are usually ordered to evaluate patients with bleeding or hypercoagulation disorders. Coagulation Studies and administer of fresh frozen plasma Plasma The residual portion of blood that is left after removal of blood cells by centrifugation without prior blood coagulation. Transfusion Products ( FFP FFP Transfusion Products) and platelets Platelets Platelets are small cell fragments involved in hemostasis. Thrombopoiesis takes place primarily in the bone marrow through a series of cell differentiation and is influenced by several cytokines. Platelets are formed after fragmentation of the megakaryocyte cytoplasm. Platelets: Histology
  • Complications:
    • Hemoglobinuria can lead to renal tubular necrosis Necrosis The death of cells in an organ or tissue due to disease, injury or failure of the blood supply. Ischemic Cell Damage and renal failure Renal failure Conditions in which the kidneys perform below the normal level in the ability to remove wastes, concentrate urine, and maintain electrolyte balance; blood pressure; and calcium metabolism. Renal insufficiency can be classified by the degree of kidney damage (as measured by the level of proteinuria) and reduction in glomerular filtration rate. Crush Syndrome.
    • DIC DIC Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) is a condition characterized by systemic bodywide activation of the coagulation cascade. This cascade results in both widespread microvascular thrombi contributing to multiple organ dysfunction and consumption of clotting factors and platelets, leading to hemorrhage. Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation: severe hemolysis can lead to an accumulation of cytokines Cytokines Non-antibody proteins secreted by inflammatory leukocytes and some non-leukocytic cells, that act as intercellular mediators. They differ from classical hormones in that they are produced by a number of tissue or cell types rather than by specialized glands. They generally act locally in a paracrine or autocrine rather than endocrine manner. Adaptive Immune Response in the blood → hypercoagulation → microthrombi and hemorrhage → impaired perfusion of organs and tissue necrosis Necrosis The death of cells in an organ or tissue due to disease, injury or failure of the blood supply. Ischemic Cell Damage → multi-system organ failure
Hemolytic reaction symptoms

Signs and symptoms of acute hemolytic transfusion reactions

Image: “Main symptoms of acute hemolytic reaction Hemolytic reaction Blood Group Systems” by Mikael Häggström. License: Public Domain, edited by Lecturio.

Delayed hemolytic transfusion reaction

  • Definition: hemolytic transfusion reaction occurring over 24 hours after the transfusion
  • Etiology:
  • Signs and symptoms: 
    • Can start days or weeks after the transfusion
    • Fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever and chills Chills The sudden sensation of being cold. It may be accompanied by shivering. Fever
    • Jaundice Jaundice Jaundice is the abnormal yellowing of the skin and/or sclera caused by the accumulation of bilirubin. Hyperbilirubinemia is caused by either an increase in bilirubin production or a decrease in the hepatic uptake, conjugation, or excretion of bilirubin. Jaundice 
    • Anemia Anemia Anemia is a condition in which individuals have low Hb levels, which can arise from various causes. Anemia is accompanied by a reduced number of RBCs and may manifest with fatigue, shortness of breath, pallor, and weakness. Subtypes are classified by the size of RBCs, chronicity, and etiology. Anemia: Overview and Types
    • Hemoglobinuria
  • Management:
    • No treatment required unless there is evidence of rapid hemolysis:
      • Supportive therapy through symptomatic treatment
      • Hydration in the setting of rapid hemolysis to protect the kidneys Kidneys The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs located retroperitoneally against the posterior wall of the abdomen on either side of the spine. As part of the urinary tract, the kidneys are responsible for blood filtration and excretion of water-soluble waste in the urine. Kidneys: Anatomy
    • Antibody testing should be performed to prevent future reactions.

Nonhemolytic Reaction

Febrile nonhemolytic transfusion reaction (FNHTR)

  • Definition: a fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever of 38oC and/or chills Chills The sudden sensation of being cold. It may be accompanied by shivering. Fever/ rigors Rigors Fever from the end of the transfusion until up to 4 hours after the transfusion
  • Etiology:
    • Type II hypersensitivity reaction Type II hypersensitivity reaction Type II hypersensitivity, also known as antibody-mediated cytotoxic hypersensitivity, is caused by immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgM antibodies directed against antigens on cells or extracellular materials. The reaction leads to cytotoxic processes involving antibodies and the complement system. Type II Hypersensitivity Reaction in which host antibodies Antibodies Immunoglobulins (Igs), also known as antibodies, are glycoprotein molecules produced by plasma cells that act in immune responses by recognizing and binding particular antigens. The various Ig classes are IgG (the most abundant), IgM, IgE, IgD, and IgA, which differ in their biologic features, structure, target specificity, and distribution. Immunoglobulins: Types and Functions target donor leukocytes Leukocytes White blood cells. These include granular leukocytes (basophils; eosinophils; and neutrophils) as well as non-granular leukocytes (lymphocytes and monocytes). White Myeloid Cells: Histology
    • Accumulation of cytokines Cytokines Non-antibody proteins secreted by inflammatory leukocytes and some non-leukocytic cells, that act as intercellular mediators. They differ from classical hormones in that they are produced by a number of tissue or cell types rather than by specialized glands. They generally act locally in a paracrine or autocrine rather than endocrine manner. Adaptive Immune Response (IL-1, IL-6, IL-8, and tumor necrosis factor Tumor necrosis factor Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is a major cytokine, released primarily by macrophages in response to stimuli. The presence of microbial products and dead cells and injury are among the stimulating factors. This protein belongs to the TNF superfamily, a group of ligands and receptors performing functions in inflammatory response, morphogenesis, and cell proliferation. Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) ( TNF TNF Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is a major cytokine, released primarily by macrophages in response to stimuli. The presence of microbial products and dead cells and injury are among the stimulating factors. This protein belongs to the TNF superfamily, a group of ligands and receptors performing functions in inflammatory response, morphogenesis, and cell proliferation. Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF))) in the donor blood during storage produces an immune reaction in the recipient.
  • Signs and symptoms:
    • Start within 1–4 hours after transfusion
    • Fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever and chills Chills The sudden sensation of being cold. It may be accompanied by shivering. Fever
    • Headaches 
    • Flushing
    • General malaise Malaise Tick-borne Encephalitis Virus
  • Management:
    • Cessation of transfusion 
    • CBC to rule out acute hemolytic reaction Hemolytic reaction Blood Group Systems ( anemia Anemia Anemia is a condition in which individuals have low Hb levels, which can arise from various causes. Anemia is accompanied by a reduced number of RBCs and may manifest with fatigue, shortness of breath, pallor, and weakness. Subtypes are classified by the size of RBCs, chronicity, and etiology. Anemia: Overview and Types, hyperbilirubinemia Hyperbilirubinemia A condition characterized by an abnormal increase of bilirubin in the blood, which may result in jaundice. Bilirubin, a breakdown product of heme, is normally excreted in the bile or further catabolized before excretion in the urine. Jaundice, thrombocytopenia Thrombocytopenia Thrombocytopenia occurs when the platelet count is < 150,000 per microliter. The normal range for platelets is usually 150,000-450,000/µL of whole blood. Thrombocytopenia can be a result of decreased production, increased destruction, or splenic sequestration of platelets. Patients are often asymptomatic until platelet counts are < 50,000/µL. Thrombocytopenia)
    • Acetaminophen Acetaminophen Acetaminophen is an over-the-counter nonopioid analgesic and antipyretic medication and the most commonly used analgesic worldwide. Despite the widespread use of acetaminophen, its mechanism of action is not entirely understood. Acetaminophen to aid with fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever
    • Prevention by leukoreduction of blood products

Allergic Reactions

  • Definition: type 1 Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy hypersensitivity reaction characterized by hives Hives Urticaria is raised, well-circumscribed areas (wheals) of edema (swelling) and erythema (redness) involving the dermis and epidermis with associated pruritus (itch). Urticaria is not a single disease but rather is a reaction pattern representing cutaneous mast cell degranulation. Urticaria (Hives) and pruritus Pruritus An intense itching sensation that produces the urge to rub or scratch the skin to obtain relief. Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) in response to a blood product Product A molecule created by the enzymatic reaction. Basics of Enzymes transfusion
  • Etiology:
    • Type I hypersensitivity reaction Type I hypersensitivity reaction Type I hypersensitivity reaction is an abnormal immune response triggered by exposure to specific antigens known as allergens. In this type of hypersensitivity reaction, the presentation of the antigen to the T-helper cells (Th cells) initiates a cascade of immunologic events leading to the production of antigen-specific IgE antibodies. Type I Hypersensitivity Reaction against plasma Plasma The residual portion of blood that is left after removal of blood cells by centrifugation without prior blood coagulation. Transfusion Products proteins Proteins Linear polypeptides that are synthesized on ribosomes and may be further modified, crosslinked, cleaved, or assembled into complex proteins with several subunits. The specific sequence of amino acids determines the shape the polypeptide will take, during protein folding, and the function of the protein. Energy Homeostasis in donor blood
    • In the case of IgA IgA Represents 15-20% of the human serum immunoglobulins, mostly as the 4-chain polymer in humans or dimer in other mammals. Secretory iga is the main immunoglobulin in secretions. Immunoglobulins: Types and Functions deficiency: the anti-IgA IgG IgG The major immunoglobulin isotype class in normal human serum. There are several isotype subclasses of igg, for example, igg1, igg2a, and igg2b. Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis antibodies Antibodies Immunoglobulins (Igs), also known as antibodies, are glycoprotein molecules produced by plasma cells that act in immune responses by recognizing and binding particular antigens. The various Ig classes are IgG (the most abundant), IgM, IgE, IgD, and IgA, which differ in their biologic features, structure, target specificity, and distribution. Immunoglobulins: Types and Functions of the recipient detect the IgA IgA Represents 15-20% of the human serum immunoglobulins, mostly as the 4-chain polymer in humans or dimer in other mammals. Secretory iga is the main immunoglobulin in secretions. Immunoglobulins: Types and Functions on the surface of RBCs RBCs Erythrocytes, or red blood cells (RBCs), are the most abundant cells in the blood. While erythrocytes in the fetus are initially produced in the yolk sac then the liver, the bone marrow eventually becomes the main site of production. Erythrocytes: Histology in the donor blood, triggering a mass Mass Three-dimensional lesion that occupies a space within the breast Imaging of the Breast release Release Release of a virus from the host cell following virus assembly and maturation. Egress can occur by host cell lysis, exocytosis, or budding through the plasma membrane. Virology of cytokines Cytokines Non-antibody proteins secreted by inflammatory leukocytes and some non-leukocytic cells, that act as intercellular mediators. They differ from classical hormones in that they are produced by a number of tissue or cell types rather than by specialized glands. They generally act locally in a paracrine or autocrine rather than endocrine manner. Adaptive Immune Response anaphylaxis Anaphylaxis An acute hypersensitivity reaction due to exposure to a previously encountered antigen. The reaction may include rapidly progressing urticaria, respiratory distress, vascular collapse, systemic shock, and death. Type I Hypersensitivity Reaction
  • Signs and symptoms: 
    • Start during the transfusion or within 2 hours after
    • Minor allergic reactions: urticaria Urticaria Urticaria is raised, well-circumscribed areas (wheals) of edema (swelling) and erythema (redness) involving the dermis and epidermis with associated pruritus (itch). Urticaria is not a single disease but rather is a reaction pattern representing cutaneous mast cell degranulation. Urticaria (Hives) or pruritus Pruritus An intense itching sensation that produces the urge to rub or scratch the skin to obtain relief. Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
    • Life-threatening reaction ( anaphylaxis Anaphylaxis An acute hypersensitivity reaction due to exposure to a previously encountered antigen. The reaction may include rapidly progressing urticaria, respiratory distress, vascular collapse, systemic shock, and death. Type I Hypersensitivity Reaction):
      • Hypotension Hypotension Hypotension is defined as low blood pressure, specifically < 90/60 mm Hg, and is most commonly a physiologic response. Hypotension may be mild, serious, or life threatening, depending on the cause. Hypotension
      • Bronchospasm Bronchospasm Asthma Drugs, wheezing Wheezing Wheezing is an abnormal breath sound characterized by a whistling noise that can be relatively high-pitched and shrill (more common) or coarse. Wheezing is produced by the movement of air through narrowed or compressed small (intrathoracic) airways. Wheezing, or stridor Stridor Laryngomalacia and Tracheomalacia
      • Nausea Nausea An unpleasant sensation in the stomach usually accompanied by the urge to vomit. Common causes are early pregnancy, sea and motion sickness, emotional stress, intense pain, food poisoning, and various enteroviruses. Antiemetics and/or vomiting Vomiting The forcible expulsion of the contents of the stomach through the mouth. Hypokalemia
      • Shock Shock Shock is a life-threatening condition associated with impaired circulation that results in tissue hypoxia. The different types of shock are based on the underlying cause: distributive (↑ cardiac output (CO), ↓ systemic vascular resistance (SVR)), cardiogenic (↓ CO, ↑ SVR), hypovolemic (↓ CO, ↑ SVR), obstructive (↓ CO), and mixed. Types of Shock
      • Cardiac and/or respiratory arrest
  • Management:
    • Minor allergic reactions: antihistamines Antihistamines Antihistamines are drugs that target histamine receptors, particularly H1 and H2 receptors. H1 antagonists are competitive and reversible inhibitors of H1 receptors. First-generation antihistamines cross the blood-brain barrier and can cause sedation. Antihistamines (e.g., diphenhydramine Diphenhydramine A histamine h1 antagonist used as an antiemetic, antitussive, for dermatoses and pruritus, for hypersensitivity reactions, as a hypnotic, an antiparkinson, and as an ingredient in common cold preparations. It has some undesired antimuscarinic and sedative effects. Antihistamines)
    • Anaphylaxis Anaphylaxis An acute hypersensitivity reaction due to exposure to a previously encountered antigen. The reaction may include rapidly progressing urticaria, respiratory distress, vascular collapse, systemic shock, and death. Type I Hypersensitivity Reaction
      • Epinephrine Epinephrine The active sympathomimetic hormone from the adrenal medulla. It stimulates both the alpha- and beta- adrenergic systems, causes systemic vasoconstriction and gastrointestinal relaxation, stimulates the heart, and dilates bronchi and cerebral vessels. Sympathomimetic Drugs
      • Hemodynamic stabilization
      • Airway management Airway management An airway, breathing, and circulation (ABC) assessment is the mainstay for evaluating and treating critically ill individuals. The airway assessment helps identify individuals with potential obstruction of the airway, which may benefit from airway management techniques to ensure adequate ventilation and oxygenation. Airway Management

Other Types of Transfusion Reactions

Transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI)

  • Etiology:
    • Two-hit mechanism:
      • Prior to transfusion, preexisting conditions (e.g., endothelial injury) lead to endothelial cell sequestration and neutrophil priming 
      • Factors already existing in transfused blood (e.g., antibodies Antibodies Immunoglobulins (Igs), also known as antibodies, are glycoprotein molecules produced by plasma cells that act in immune responses by recognizing and binding particular antigens. The various Ig classes are IgG (the most abundant), IgM, IgE, IgD, and IgA, which differ in their biologic features, structure, target specificity, and distribution. Immunoglobulins: Types and Functions against recipient antigens or bioactive lipids Lipids Lipids are a diverse group of hydrophobic organic molecules, which include fats, oils, sterols, and waxes. Fatty Acids and Lipids) activate neutrophils Neutrophils Granular leukocytes having a nucleus with three to five lobes connected by slender threads of chromatin, and cytoplasm containing fine inconspicuous granules and stainable by neutral dyes. Innate Immunity: Phagocytes and Antigen Presentation release Release Release of a virus from the host cell following virus assembly and maturation. Egress can occur by host cell lysis, exocytosis, or budding through the plasma membrane. Virology of cytokines Cytokines Non-antibody proteins secreted by inflammatory leukocytes and some non-leukocytic cells, that act as intercellular mediators. They differ from classical hormones in that they are produced by a number of tissue or cell types rather than by specialized glands. They generally act locally in a paracrine or autocrine rather than endocrine manner. Adaptive Immune Response, reactive oxygen species Reactive oxygen species Molecules or ions formed by the incomplete one-electron reduction of oxygen. These reactive oxygen intermediates include singlet oxygen; superoxides; peroxides; hydroxyl radical; and hypochlorous acid. They contribute to the microbicidal activity of phagocytes, regulation of signal transduction and gene expression, and the oxidative damage to nucleic acids; proteins; and lipids. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, and proteolytic enzymes Enzymes Enzymes are complex protein biocatalysts that accelerate chemical reactions without being consumed by them. Due to the body’s constant metabolic needs, the absence of enzymes would make life unsustainable, as reactions would occur too slowly without these molecules. Basics of Enzymes that damage the vascular endothelium Endothelium A layer of epithelium that lines the heart, blood vessels (vascular endothelium), lymph vessels (lymphatic endothelium), and the serous cavities of the body. Arteries: Histology.
    • Causes inflammatory (noncardiogenic) pulmonary edema Pulmonary edema Pulmonary edema is a condition caused by excess fluid within the lung parenchyma and alveoli as a consequence of a disease process. Based on etiology, pulmonary edema is classified as cardiogenic or noncardiogenic. Patients may present with progressive dyspnea, orthopnea, cough, or respiratory failure. Pulmonary Edema
    • Can lead to acute hypoxemia Hypoxemia Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome
  • Signs and symptoms: 
    • Start during the transfusion or within 6 hours after
    • Respiratory distress or dyspnea Dyspnea Dyspnea is the subjective sensation of breathing discomfort. Dyspnea is a normal manifestation of heavy physical or psychological exertion, but also may be caused by underlying conditions (both pulmonary and extrapulmonary). Dyspnea
    • Hypotonia Hypotonia Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
    • Fever Fever Fever is defined as a measured body temperature of at least 38°C (100.4°F). Fever is caused by circulating endogenous and/or exogenous pyrogens that increase levels of prostaglandin E2 in the hypothalamus. Fever is commonly associated with chills, rigors, sweating, and flushing of the skin. Fever
    • Hypotension Hypotension Hypotension is defined as low blood pressure, specifically < 90/60 mm Hg, and is most commonly a physiologic response. Hypotension may be mild, serious, or life threatening, depending on the cause. Hypotension ( hypovolemia Hypovolemia Sepsis in Children due to the accumulation of fluid in the lungs Lungs Lungs are the main organs of the respiratory system. Lungs are paired viscera located in the thoracic cavity and are composed of spongy tissue. The primary function of the lungs is to oxygenate blood and eliminate CO2. Lungs: Anatomy)
    • X-ray X-ray Penetrating electromagnetic radiation emitted when the inner orbital electrons of an atom are excited and release radiant energy. X-ray wavelengths range from 1 pm to 10 nm. Hard x-rays are the higher energy, shorter wavelength x-rays. Soft x-rays or grenz rays are less energetic and longer in wavelength. The short wavelength end of the x-ray spectrum overlaps the gamma rays wavelength range. The distinction between gamma rays and x-rays is based on their radiation source. Pulmonary Function Tests shows bilateral infiltrates suggesting pulmonary edema Pulmonary edema Pulmonary edema is a condition caused by excess fluid within the lung parenchyma and alveoli as a consequence of a disease process. Based on etiology, pulmonary edema is classified as cardiogenic or noncardiogenic. Patients may present with progressive dyspnea, orthopnea, cough, or respiratory failure. Pulmonary Edema.
    • If intubated, frothy, pink sputum may be visible in the endotracheal tube.
  • Management:
    • Cessation of transfusion
    • Supportive care
      • Assisted ventilation Ventilation The total volume of gas inspired or expired per unit of time, usually measured in liters per minute. Ventilation: Mechanics of Breathing or oxygen administration
      • Monitoring and regulation of hemodynamic parameters
      • IV steroids Steroids A group of polycyclic compounds closely related biochemically to terpenes. They include cholesterol, numerous hormones, precursors of certain vitamins, bile acids, alcohols (sterols), and certain natural drugs and poisons. Steroids have a common nucleus, a fused, reduced 17-carbon atom ring system, cyclopentanoperhydrophenanthrene. Most steroids also have two methyl groups and an aliphatic side-chain attached to the nucleus. Benign Liver Tumors to aid with inflammation Inflammation Inflammation is a complex set of responses to infection and injury involving leukocytes as the principal cellular mediators in the body’s defense against pathogenic organisms. Inflammation is also seen as a response to tissue injury in the process of wound healing. The 5 cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation (controversial)
Transfusion-related acute lung injury chest x-ray

Chest X-ray Chest X-ray X-ray visualization of the chest and organs of the thoracic cavity. It is not restricted to visualization of the lungs. Pulmonary Function Tests of TRALI showing bilateral diffuse infiltrates (left); chest X-ray Chest X-ray X-ray visualization of the chest and organs of the thoracic cavity. It is not restricted to visualization of the lungs. Pulmonary Function Tests of the same subject after treatment (right)

Image: “Two chest X-rays X-rays X-rays are high-energy particles of electromagnetic radiation used in the medical field for the generation of anatomical images. X-rays are projected through the body of a patient and onto a film, and this technique is called conventional or projectional radiography. X-rays” by Altaf Gauhar Haji et al AL Amyloidosis. License: CC BY 2.0, edited by Lecturio.

Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD)

  • Etiology:
    • Delayed transfusion reaction 
    • Donor’s T lymphocytes Lymphocytes Lymphocytes are heterogeneous WBCs involved in immune response. Lymphocytes develop from the bone marrow, starting from hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and progressing to common lymphoid progenitors (CLPs). B and T lymphocytes and natural killer (NK) cells arise from the lineage. Lymphocytes: Histology target human leukocyte antigen Antigen Substances that are recognized by the immune system and induce an immune reaction. Vaccination (HLA), expressing tissues in the recipient → systemic inflammatory reaction
    • Most commonly affected organs: bone Bone Bone is a compact type of hardened connective tissue composed of bone cells, membranes, an extracellular mineralized matrix, and central bone marrow. The 2 primary types of bone are compact and spongy. Bones: Structure and Types marrow, skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Skin: Structure and Functions, intestines, and liver Liver The liver is the largest gland in the human body. The liver is found in the superior right quadrant of the abdomen and weighs approximately 1.5 kilograms. Its main functions are detoxification, metabolism, nutrient storage (e.g., iron and vitamins), synthesis of coagulation factors, formation of bile, filtration, and storage of blood. Liver: Anatomy
    • Risk factors for developing GvHD
      • Immunosuppressed individuals
      • Partial HLA match between donor and recipient
    • Can present acutely (< 100 days after transfusion/transplant) or chronically (> 100 days after transfusion/transplant)
  • Signs and symptoms:
    • Acute reaction
      • Starts 4–30 days after transfusion/transplant
      • Pruritic, painful maculopapular Maculopapular Dermatologic Examination rash Rash Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
      • Nausea Nausea An unpleasant sensation in the stomach usually accompanied by the urge to vomit. Common causes are early pregnancy, sea and motion sickness, emotional stress, intense pain, food poisoning, and various enteroviruses. Antiemetics and/or vomiting Vomiting The forcible expulsion of the contents of the stomach through the mouth. Hypokalemia
      • Diarrhea Diarrhea Diarrhea is defined as ≥ 3 watery or loose stools in a 24-hour period. There are a multitude of etiologies, which can be classified based on the underlying mechanism of disease. The duration of symptoms (acute or chronic) and characteristics of the stools (e.g., watery, bloody, steatorrheic, mucoid) can help guide further diagnostic evaluation. Diarrhea and cramping abdominal pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways
      • Jaundice Jaundice Jaundice is the abnormal yellowing of the skin and/or sclera caused by the accumulation of bilirubin. Hyperbilirubinemia is caused by either an increase in bilirubin production or a decrease in the hepatic uptake, conjugation, or excretion of bilirubin. Jaundice
    • Chronic reaction
      • Starts > 100 days after transfusion/transplant
      • All symptoms seen in the acute reaction may occur. 
      • Scleroderma-like skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Skin: Structure and Functions changes (lichenoid skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Skin: Structure and Functions changes)
      • Xerostomia Xerostomia Decreased salivary flow. Sjögren’s Syndrome (dry mouth) and xerophthalmia Xerophthalmia Dryness of the eye surfaces caused by deficiency of tears or conjunctival secretions. It may be associated with vitamin A deficiency, trauma, or any condition in which the eyelids do not close completely. Sjögren’s Syndrome (dry eyes)
      • Bloody diarrhea Diarrhea Diarrhea is defined as ≥ 3 watery or loose stools in a 24-hour period. There are a multitude of etiologies, which can be classified based on the underlying mechanism of disease. The duration of symptoms (acute or chronic) and characteristics of the stools (e.g., watery, bloody, steatorrheic, mucoid) can help guide further diagnostic evaluation. Diarrhea (chronic enteritis Enteritis Inflammation of any segment of the small intestine. Lactose Intolerance similar to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD))
      • Weight loss Weight loss Decrease in existing body weight. Bariatric Surgery
      • Muscle pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways and weakness
      • Bronchiolitis obliterans Bronchiolitis obliterans Bronchiolitis obliterans is an obstructive lung disease triggered by a bronchiolar injury, which leads to inflammatory fibrosis and narrowing of the distal bronchioles. The triggering bronchiolar injury is often due to inhalation of a noxious substance, infection, or drug toxicity. Bronchiolitis Obliterans (chronic/persistent cough, wheezing Wheezing Wheezing is an abnormal breath sound characterized by a whistling noise that can be relatively high-pitched and shrill (more common) or coarse. Wheezing is produced by the movement of air through narrowed or compressed small (intrathoracic) airways. Wheezing, and dyspnea Dyspnea Dyspnea is the subjective sensation of breathing discomfort. Dyspnea is a normal manifestation of heavy physical or psychological exertion, but also may be caused by underlying conditions (both pulmonary and extrapulmonary). Dyspnea)
  • Diagnosis:
    • CBC shows anemia Anemia Anemia is a condition in which individuals have low Hb levels, which can arise from various causes. Anemia is accompanied by a reduced number of RBCs and may manifest with fatigue, shortness of breath, pallor, and weakness. Subtypes are classified by the size of RBCs, chronicity, and etiology. Anemia: Overview and Types, thrombocytopenia Thrombocytopenia Thrombocytopenia occurs when the platelet count is < 150,000 per microliter. The normal range for platelets is usually 150,000-450,000/µL of whole blood. Thrombocytopenia can be a result of decreased production, increased destruction, or splenic sequestration of platelets. Patients are often asymptomatic until platelet counts are < 50,000/µL. Thrombocytopenia, and/or leukopenia (acute reaction).
    • Spirometry Spirometry Measurement of volume of air inhaled or exhaled by the lung. Pulmonary Function Tests may show obstructive lung disease (chronic reaction).
    • Biopsy Biopsy Removal and pathologic examination of specimens from the living body. Ewing Sarcoma of the transplanted tissue, skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Skin: Structure and Functions lesion, or liver Liver The liver is the largest gland in the human body. The liver is found in the superior right quadrant of the abdomen and weighs approximately 1.5 kilograms. Its main functions are detoxification, metabolism, nutrient storage (e.g., iron and vitamins), synthesis of coagulation factors, formation of bile, filtration, and storage of blood. Liver: Anatomy to confirm diagnosis 
  • Management:
    • 1st-line: corticosteroids Corticosteroids Chorioretinitis 
      • Topical in the case of  < 50% skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Skin: Structure and Functions involvement
      • Systemic in the case of > 50% skin Skin The skin, also referred to as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body. The skin is primarily composed of the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (deep layer). The epidermis is primarily composed of keratinocytes that undergo rapid turnover, while the dermis contains dense layers of connective tissue. Skin: Structure and Functions involvement, gastrointestinal (GI) involvement, liver Liver The liver is the largest gland in the human body. The liver is found in the superior right quadrant of the abdomen and weighs approximately 1.5 kilograms. Its main functions are detoxification, metabolism, nutrient storage (e.g., iron and vitamins), synthesis of coagulation factors, formation of bile, filtration, and storage of blood. Liver: Anatomy involvement
    • 2nd-line: increased corticosteroid dose + immunosuppressant (e.g., cyclosporine Cyclosporine A cyclic undecapeptide from an extract of soil fungi. It is a powerful immunosupressant with a specific action on T-lymphocytes. It is used for the prophylaxis of graft rejection in organ and tissue transplantation. Immunosuppressants)
    • Only curative treatment is bone Bone Bone is a compact type of hardened connective tissue composed of bone cells, membranes, an extracellular mineralized matrix, and central bone marrow. The 2 primary types of bone are compact and spongy. Bones: Structure and Types marrow transplant.

Transfusion-associated circulatory overload (TACO)

  • Etiology:
    • Large transfusion volume
    • Fast infusion rate
    • Underlying renal or cardiovascular disease
    • Low body weight
    • Infant or elderly patients Patients Individuals participating in the health care system for the purpose of receiving therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive procedures. Clinician–Patient Relationship
  • Signs and symptoms: 
    • Start during the transfusion or within 6 hours after
    • Signs of hypervolemia Hypervolemia Renal Sodium and Water Regulation 
      • S3 S3 Heart Sounds gallop
      • Shortness of breath Shortness of breath Dyspnea is the subjective sensation of breathing discomfort. Dyspnea is a normal manifestation of heavy physical or psychological exertion, but also may be caused by underlying conditions (both pulmonary and extrapulmonary). Dyspnea
      • Jugular venous distention
      • Sudden hypertension Hypertension Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common disease that manifests as elevated systemic arterial pressures. Hypertension is most often asymptomatic and is found incidentally as part of a routine physical examination or during triage for an unrelated medical encounter. Hypertension
      • Tachycardia Tachycardia Abnormally rapid heartbeat, usually with a heart rate above 100 beats per minute for adults. Tachycardia accompanied by disturbance in the cardiac depolarization (cardiac arrhythmia) is called tachyarrhythmia. Sepsis in Children
      • Widened pulse pressure
      • Cough and/or dyspnea Dyspnea Dyspnea is the subjective sensation of breathing discomfort. Dyspnea is a normal manifestation of heavy physical or psychological exertion, but also may be caused by underlying conditions (both pulmonary and extrapulmonary). Dyspnea
    • X-ray X-ray Penetrating electromagnetic radiation emitted when the inner orbital electrons of an atom are excited and release radiant energy. X-ray wavelengths range from 1 pm to 10 nm. Hard x-rays are the higher energy, shorter wavelength x-rays. Soft x-rays or grenz rays are less energetic and longer in wavelength. The short wavelength end of the x-ray spectrum overlaps the gamma rays wavelength range. The distinction between gamma rays and x-rays is based on their radiation source. Pulmonary Function Tests shows bilateral infiltrates suggesting pulmonary edema Pulmonary edema Pulmonary edema is a condition caused by excess fluid within the lung parenchyma and alveoli as a consequence of a disease process. Based on etiology, pulmonary edema is classified as cardiogenic or noncardiogenic. Patients may present with progressive dyspnea, orthopnea, cough, or respiratory failure. Pulmonary Edema.
  • Management:
References
  1. Davenport RD. Pathophysiology of hemolytic transfusion reactions. Semin Hematol. 2005 Jul https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0037196305000594?via%3Dihub
  2. Strobel E. Hemolytic Transfusion Reactions. Transfus Med Hemother. 2008;35(5):346-353. doi: 10.1159/000154811. Epub 2008 Sep 18. https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/154811
  3. Popovsky MA, Moore SB. Diagnostic and pathogenetic considerations in transfusion-related acute lung injury. Transfusion. 1985 Nov-Dec https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1537-2995.1985.25686071434.x?sid=nlm%3Apubmed
  4. Vargas-Díez E, García-Díez A, Marín A, Fernández-Herrera J. Life-threatening graft-vs-host disease. Clin Dermatol. 2005 May-Jun https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0738081X04001038?via%3Dihub
  5. Kopolovic I, Ostro J, Tsubota H, Lin Y, Cserti-Gazdewich CM, Messner HA HA Hemolytic anemia (HA) is the term given to a large group of anemias that are caused by the premature destruction/hemolysis of circulating red blood cells (RBCs). Hemolysis can occur within (intravascular hemolysis) or outside the blood vessels (extravascular hemolysis). Hemolytic Anemia, Keir AK AK Actinic keratosis (AK) is a precancerous skin lesion that affects sun-exposed areas. The condition presents as small, non-tender macules/papules with a characteristic sandpaper-like texture that can become erythematous scaly plaques. Actinic Keratosis, DenHollander N, Dzik WS WS Williams syndrome (WS), also known as Williams-beuren syndrome (WBS), is a genetic disease caused by a microdeletion on chromosome 7. Affected individuals have a characteristic elfin facies and short stature. Cognitive, developmental, and behavioral issues are common. Additionally, cardiovascular, connective tissue, endocrine, and renal anomalies may be present. Williams Syndrome, Callum J. A systematic review of transfusion-associated graft-versus-host disease. Blood. 2015 Jul 16 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25931584/
  6. Schroeder ML. Transfusion-associated graft-versus-host disease. Br J Haematol. 2002 May https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1365-2141.2002.03450.x?sid=nlm%3Apubmed

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