Blood transfusion

Blood transfusions can be a lift saving and necessary treatment and mistakes are rare, but sometimes mistakes are made and the consequences can be severe.

Blood transfusion is the process of administering blood into a patient that has been taken from a donor. There are many reasons blood transfusions are carried out such as being in an accident or after childbirth.

Generally, it plays an essential part in improving treatment and saving lives of patients who have lost blood during an accident and the chances for an accident to happen is very rare. However, unfortunately, blood transfusions can go wrong.

If you’ve been subject to a blood transfusion and suffered as a result, get in touch with our medical negligence team who will see if you have a claim.

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What is a blood transfusion? 

A blood transfusion is when blood is given from one person to another and can be a lifesaving treatment, but they can also sometimes go wrong. When they do go wrong, the impact can leave devastating results on those involved.

Generally speaking, Blood transfusions a lower risk procedure, with a more straightforward transfusion taking from between one and four hours. When the transfusion is completed, the drip is removed and the patient should have their vital signs checked but normally there are never any issues that arise. In fact, there is around 3 million taking place throughout the UK every single year. Medical professionals and healthcare staff are trained to the highest standards and the blood given is extensively tested and matched. Nevertheless, there are occasions when mistakes are made, and the consequences can have a damaging effect.

Who might need one?

As mentioned previously, blood transfusions are vital treatments that save or improve the lives of thousands of people daily. They are often associated with giving blood to someone that requires it following a loss of their own blood, for example during an accident or childbirth.

However, there are also a range of health conditions that require blood transfusions. they are often given to people with blood disorders, such as thalassaemia or sickle cell anaemia, as well as to people who are severely anaemic. Illnesses such as haemophilia, chronic liver disease, sepsis or bone marrow failure may also call for a blood transfusion.

What are the main risks of a blood transfusion?

Although the risk level for blood transfusions on the whole is low, there are risks involved. The main risk in receiving a blood transfusion is receiving the wrong blood type and/or infected blood. Hospitals and medical centres will have safeguarding procedures in place to minimise any wrongful transfusions happen but mistakes do happen and when this does occur it can have serious or even fatal consequences.

The most common risks associated with blood transfusions are:

  • Receiving the wrong blood type
  • Receiving contaminated blood
  • Fluid (Blood) Overload

What are the Consequences? 

The consequences of being given the wrong blood type or contaminated blood can be serious. There are 3 main areas where negligence can occur and we have broken down the consequences for each.

Wrong blood type:

Everyone has their own bloody type and it is incredibly important that when you have a blood transfusion you are receiving blood that matches your blood type. A patient that receives blood should be tested immediately prior to the transfusion taking place to confirm this.

Patients will often be given a wristband when they’re in hospital which should show their blood type, and this must be checked before every bag of blood that is transfused. Failure to make these checks can lead to errors being made and can result in the patient receiving the wrong blood type.

This can cause the patient to suffer a haemolytic transfusion reaction (HTR), which is where their immune system responds by attacking the donated blood cells. This may happen immediately, or it may take up to a week to occur.

Symptoms of a HTR may include:

  • dizziness or fainting
  • chills
  • fever
  • blood in the urine or dark urine
  • back pain
  • hives or itching of the skin.

Contaminated Blood:

When you choose to donate blood you should be screened beforehand to check for anything that might put someone at risk of infection. Upon donation, blood is tested in a laboratory to ensure it does not contain HIV, hepatitis or any other blood borne infection, or parasites before it can be approved for use.

All blood must then be stored correctly, transported correctly and kept sterile before being administered to the patient. Despite all of these safeguarding measure, sometimes contaminated blood can still be administered and the impacts can be extremely serious. A patient that is given contaminated blood, they may end up contracting a blood borne infection, or developing sepsis. Either of these occurrences can be life threatening.

Fluid (Blood) Overload:

There is a risk that if you are administered too much blood or the blood is administered too quickly, the body may not be able to cope. If this happens, you may experience swelling of the body, dangerously high blood pressure, breathing difficulties and ultimately heart failure as the heart struggles to pump enough blood around the body.

These cases are rare and tend to affect people with serious health conditions, low body weight and the elderly, therefore the medical professionals should take extra care with these patients to avoid these.

No Win No Fee:

If you have been given the wrong blood type and have suffered an illness or injury because of this, it is normally considered to be negligent and a claim can be brought.

Youngs Law offer no win, no fee for all of our medical negligence claims, so if you don’t win your case and receive compensation, you don’t pay us a penny. We will also wait for any fee to be paid to us when you receive you compensation and not upon winning you case.

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