Transfusion Reactions

Brief HPI:

A 28 year-old female with a history of systemic lupus erythematosus and end-stage renal disease without access to scheduled hemodialysis presents to the emergency department with 1 week of worsening dyspnea, fatigue and leg swelling. Her symptoms are reminiscent of prior episodes resolving with hemodialysis. On evaluation, vital signs are normal and laboratory tests demonstrate microcytic anemia (Hb 5.9g/dL) but no hyperkalemia. A plain chest radiograph is normal and the patient ambulates without hypoxia.

The patient was deemed to not meet any requirements for emergent hemodialysis. One unit of packed red blood cells was ordered for transfusion for symptomatic anemia. During transfusion, the patient developed worsening dyspnea and was found to be hypertensive and hypoxic. A chest radiograph was obtained and is shown below.

Chest x-ray with pulmonary edema

Pulmonary vascular congestion and bilateral pleural effusions.


The transfusion was discontinued, the patient was placed on non-invasive positive pressure ventilation, and emergent hemodialysis was initiated with subsequent resolution of presumed transfusion associated circulatory overload.

Algorithm for the Evaluation and Management of Transfusion Reactions

Algorithm for the Evaluation and Management of Transfusion Reactions

This algorithm was developed by Dr. Eric Madden, chief resident in emergency medicine at McGovern Med EM.

References

  1. Carson JL, Triulzi DJ, Ness PM. Indications for and Adverse Effects of Red-Cell Transfusion. N Engl J Med. 2017;377(13):1261-1272. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1612789.
  2. Delaney M, Wendel S, Bercovitz RS, et al. Transfusion reactions: prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Lancet. 2016;388(10061):2825-2836. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01313-6.
  3. Goel R, Tobian AAR, Shaz BH. Noninfectious transfusion-associated adverse events and their mitigation strategies. Blood. 2019;133(17):1831-1839. doi:10.1182/blood-2018-10-833988.
  4. Osterman JL, Arora S. Blood product transfusions and reactions. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2014;32(3):727-738. doi:10.1016/j.emc.2014.04.012.
  5. Silvergleid AJ. Approach to the patient with a suspected acute transfusion reaction. Post TW, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate Inc. https://www.uptodate.com (Accessed on September 01, 2019.)
  6. Suddock JT, Crookston KP. Transfusion Reactions. January 2019.

Hematologic Emergencies

Sickle Cell Crises

  • Triggers: infection, acidosis, dehydration, cold-exposure, hypoxia, pregnancy
  • Presentation: exclude alternative more serious pathology prior to ascribing pain to vaso-occlusive crisis

Effects by Organ System

System Symptom
CNS Focal or generalized neurological symptoms, stroke, seizure
Pulmonary Acute chest syndrome (fever, chest pain, cough, hypoxia, pulmonary infiltrates), pulmonary embolism
GI Abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting
Renal Papillary necrosis
GU Priapism, testicular/ovarian ischemia
Muskuloskeletal Bone pain (back, proximal extremities), exclude osteomyelitis, avascular necrosis
ID Infection, functional asplenia (streptococcus, haemophilus)
OB Preterm labor, placental abruptions, SAB
Ophthalmology Acute retinal ischemia, hyphema (with intra-ocular hypertension)
Hematology
  • Sequestration crisis: acute anemia, often post-viral
  • Hemolytic crisis: acute anemia, reticulocytosis, hyperbilirubinemia
  • Megaloblastic crisis: folate deficiency
  • Aplastic crisis: inadequate reticulocytosis

Evaluation

  • CBC with reticulocyte count
    • ¬†Hemoglobin: suggests sequestration or hemolytic crisis
    • Reticulocyte index: suggests aplastic or megaloblastic crisis
  • LDH/haptoglobin: evaluate for hemolysis
  • UA: evaluate for infection/infarction
  • CXR: evaluate for acute chest syndrome

Management

  • Rehydration (hypotonic fluids)
  • Analgesia
  • Supplemental oxygen if hypoxic
  • Exchange transfusion for priapism, neurologic symptoms, aplastic/sequestration/hemolytic crises

Transfusion Reactions

  • Epidemiology: overall 0.25%, 0.09% severe
  • Management: stop transfusion

Management by Presumed Etiology

Reaction Mechanism Signs/symptoms Management
Acute, Severe
Acute hemolysis Incompatibility Fevers, HR, BP, vomiting, back pain IVF, vasopressors if needed, furosemide
Anaphylaxis IgA-mediated 1min: flushing laryngospasm, bronchospasm, BP Epinephrine, steroids, diphenhydramine, IVF
Sepsis Bacterial contamination (Y. entercolitica), increased risk in platelet transfusion Fevers, BP IVF, vasopressors if needed, broad-spectrum antibiotics
TRALI (transfusion-related acute lung injury) Non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema, increased risk in FFP transfusion Hypoxia, respiratory distress, XR bilateral infiltrates Supplemental oxygen, PPV/ETT
TACO (transfusion-associated circulatory overload) Hypervolemia in patients with history of CHF Hypoxia, respiratory distress, heart failure Supplemental oxygen, PPV/ETT, furosemide
Acute, Minor
Simple febrile reaction Cytokine-mediated Isolated fever Acetaminophen
Minor allergic reaction Response to transfused plasma proteins Urticaria, pruritus, flushing Diphenhydramine
Delayed
Delayed hemolysis Minor RBC antigens 5-10d, low-grade hemolysis  
GVHD Immunocompromised host Fever, rash, N/V, transaminitis, pancytopenia  
Massive Transfusion
Massive transfusion Large-volume, refrigerated products Coagulopathy, hypothermia, hypocalcemia, hyperkalemia, lactic acidosis