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Blood Transfusion Errors and Injuries

Updated May 29, 2020 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Blood transfusions are a common process where a patient receives blood through an intravenous line—so common, in fact, that the American Red Cross estimates someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion every two seconds. When a patient has experienced significant blood loss due to a surgical procedure or serious trauma, blood transfusions are the solution to the problem.

Although this procedure is relatively safe, errors such improper storage or labeling or even blood contamination can take place, leading to severe, long-lasting injuries or even death.

How Blood Transfusions Work

Most blood transfusions are performed with donated blood, which is tested to ensure it is safe and to determine its type. When a patient needs blood, the hospital will check the patient’s blood type, order compatible blood, and deliver that blood to the patient via a tube into their vein.

Causes of Blood Transfusion Errors

Unfortunately, if the appropriate safety procedures are not followed at every stage of the process, complications can occur.

Administration Errors

Improper administration errors concern mistakes in the process of administering the blood transfusion. If a healthcare professional administers the blood in the wrong location on the patient’s body or with the wrong type of needle, it could fall under this category. Additionally, giving a patient too much or too little blood could cause serious issues.

Communication and Staff Errors

A variety of errors could be caused by insufficient staff training or a lack of staff members. Miscommunication among hospital staff members could lead to misidentifying blood samples, for example.

Patient Assessment Errors

Hospitals mixing up patients or failing to properly assess the medical history of its patients could cause the wrong blood type or otherwise incompatible blood to be administered to a patient.

Storage Errors

Blood needs to be properly stored and labeled so that it can be safely administered to patients. Mismanaged or mislabeled blood can lead to patients being given the wrong blood type or even blood being contaminated or infected.

Blood Transfusion Injuries

When blood transfusion mistakes occur, patients can be seriously injured, and the consequences can be lifelong. Injuries caused by blood transfusion errors can include the following:

  • Infections (Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV, etc.) caused by contaminated blood
  • Acute hemolytic transfusion reaction (AHTR), when a patient’s antibodies destroy donor blood cells, leading to anaphylactic shock, stroke, blood clotting, or kidney failure
  • Iron overload
  • Hypothermia
  • Pulmonary embolisms
  • Nerve damage
  • Amputation
  • Death

These errors are often caused by negligence on the part of blood storage facilities, hospitals, or healthcare professionals.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been a victim of medical malpractice, contact an Indianapolis Medical Malpractice Attorney from Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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