Errors in Blood Transfusions Can Be Grounds for Malpractice
When a patient enters a medical facility, whether it be an emergency room, an operating room, or the like, the possibility exists that the patient will need blood at some point. As such, blood transfusions are very common procedures in United States medical facilities. In fact, according to WebMD, about 5 million Americans receive a transfusion every year. And, in the vast majority of instances, there are no issues. However, to recover compensation for any error that does occur, retaining the services of an attorney experienced in blood transfusion errors is crucial. Recently, a woman came to the realization that a series of blood transfusions she received as an infant, which fortunately saved her life, also infected her with Hepatitis C. This story is, in fact, not unusual, as, in some cases, the error of an improper blood transfusion may take some time to manifest and be noticed by the patient. A discussion of the types of errors that can occur in blood transfusions, the consequences of an improper blood transfusion, and how to recover, will follow below.
Common Errors in Blood Transfusion Procedures
As stated above, blood transfusions are a very common procedure at American medical facilities. Nevertheless, errors do occur, and the following is a list of some of the most common errors, which can be the basis for a medical malpractice suit against the attending medical personnel:
- Wrong blood type. Obviously, the recipient must receive the proper blood type. Errors may occur due to improper labelling of the blood, or misidentification of the patient.
- Tainted blood. If blood is not properly screened, or stored at the right temperature, it may be contaminated.
- Delay in administration. This occurs when medical personnel begin the blood transfusion too late for it to be effective.
- Unnecessary administration. This can occur when medical personnel administer the transfusion too soon, or do not rely on the patient’s body to regenerate his/her own blood.
Complications of Improper Blood Transfusions
Although blood transfusions are generally safe, the above list indicates risks do exist. The following list includes some of the complications of an improper blood transfusion:
- While some degree of fever can be expected, nausea and/or chest pain can be an indicator of an improper blood transfusion.
- Allergic reaction. This may occur even if the blood is of the correct type, and a feeling of itchiness typically occurs during the transfusion or shortly thereafter.
- Acute immune hemolytic reaction. This is a rare, but true medical emergency, and occurs when the body attacks the red blood cells. Taking place during or right after a transfusion, the symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, or pain in the chest or lower back, as well as dark-colored urine.
- Delayed hemolytic reaction. A more gradual version of acute immune hemolytic reaction.
- Anaphylactic reaction. Happening within minutes of a transfusion, symptoms include swelling of the face and throat, shortness of breath, and low blood pressure.
- Transfusion-related acute lung injury. A rare, but potentially fatal, reaction, symptoms show immediately and include fever and low blood pressure.
- Bloodborne infections, such as HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, West Nile Virus, and Zika.
- Multiple transfusions may lead to too much iron in the blood.
- Graft-versus-host disease. Extremely rare, but almost always fatal, this occurs when white blood cells in the new blood attack bone marrow.
Suing for Compensation
No one should have to suffer potentially life-threatening injuries or reactions because a doctor or other medical staff member was negligent in the performance of their duties. If a medical provider failed to maintain the professional standard of care required when treating a patient, and caused an injury, a malpractice lawsuit may be in order to recover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and the like. An experienced malpractice attorney will know if an injury claim is likely to succeed.
Seek Legal Advice
If you, or someone you love, has one of the following reactions to a blood transfusion, contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. The Miami attorneys at the law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado have experience in blood transfusion errors, and the resources to build a strong case to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact our Miami office today for an initial consultation.