Blood transfusion reaction
A hemolytic transfusion reaction is a serious problem that occurs after a patient receives a transfusion of blood. The red blood cells that were given to the patient are destroyed by the patient's immune system.
There are other types of allergic transfusion reactions that do not cause hemolysis.
Blood is classified into different blood types called A, B, AB, and O.
Your immune system can usually tell its own blood cells from blood cells from another person. If other blood cells enter your body, your immune system may make antibodies against them. These antibodies will work to destroy the blood cells that your immune system does not recognize.
Another way blood cells may be classified is by Rh factors. People who have Rh factors in their blood are called "Rh positive." People without these factors are called "Rh negative." Rh negative people form antibodies against Rh factor if they receive Rh positive blood.
There are also other factors to identify blood cells, in addition to ABO and Rh.
Blood that you receive in a transfusion must be compatible with your own blood. Being compatible means that your body will not form antibodies against the blood you receive.
Blood transfusion between compatible groups (such as O+ to O+) usually causes no problem. Blood transfusion between incompatible groups (such as A+ to O-) causes an immune response. This can lead to a very serious transfusion reaction. The immune system attacks the donated blood cells, causing them to burst.
Today, all blood is carefully screened. Modern lab methods and many checks have helped make these transfusion reactions very rare.
Goodnough L. Transfusion medicine. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 183.
Wu YY, Mantha S, Snyder EL. Transfusion reactions. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ Jr., Shattil SJ, et al, eds. Hoffman Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2008:chap 153.
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