Medical Negligence: The Main Factor Behind Blood Transfusion Errors

blood transfusion malpracticeMost people who undergo blood transfusions have suffered serious injuries in car accidents or they have undergone emergency surgeries or even elective surgeries where they lost a good amount of blood. Other people need blood transfusions because they are very ill and their bodies cannot make blood properly. In fact, about one in seven people who seek medical care in hospitals need blood, and 4.5 million people in this nation need blood transfusions annually, according to GivingBlood.org.

Understanding Blood Transfusions

When a blood transfusion is performed, a patient receives healthy blood via an intravenous (IV) line into a blood vessel. A blood transfusion is, in fact, a common medical procedure that is designed to help people replace the blood they lost. Depending on how much blood is lost and what amount is needed, the procedure can take anywhere from one to four hours.

The Importance of Blood Transfusions

Blood plays a critical role in the body. When a person doesn’t have enough healthy blood to supply the body’s organs and tissues with sufficient nutrients, a person can suffer serious complications. Sadly, many people die without receiving the right kind of blood. This is why a blood transfusion is considered a life-saving measure. However, mistakes can occur during a blood transfusion that can lead to serious injuries or death.

Blood Transfusion Errors

Although blood-borne infections used to be the main concern with blood transfusions, this rarely happens today due to the screening tests that occur on units of donated blood that almost eliminate the possibility of getting an infectious disease. However, when blood is not tested properly, viruses, bacteria, and parasites are sometimes passed along during a transfusion. On rare occasions, mistakes can occur surrounding a blood transfusions that can cause a patient to suffer significant health concerns.

Health Problems From Blood Transfusion Errors

While the worst case scenario following a botched blood transfusion is the death of the patient, there are also other adverse reactions that can occur from blood transfusions, including:  

  • Kidney failure
  • Respiratory distress
  • Hypotension
  • Shock
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Organ failure

Mistakes That Lead to These Adverse Health Events

Because humans are involved in every step of the process from collecting blood to storing the blood and administering the blood into an IV, mistakes can occur that can lead to blood transfusion errors. The cause can be as simple as a breakdown in safety protocols or poor training. Other potential reasons for harmful mistakes include the following:

  • Mixing up patients’ blood. Many people donate their own blood prior to an elective surgery. Unfortunately, sometimes patients’ blood vials are mixed up and a person may receive a blood transfusion with the wrong blood due to medical negligence. This can also occur when several samples are being processed at the same time and a blood sample mix-up occurs.
  • Failing to give a patient the right blood type. Every person’s blood has a type: A, B, AB, or O; and every person’s blood is either Rh-negative or Rh-positive. In order for a blood transfusion to work properly, a patient has to be given the correct blood type. If a mix-up happens or if a medical staff member is in a hurry and doesn’t verify the blood unit is the right blood type, a patient may receive the wrong blood. Consequently, receiving an incorrect blood type can make a person very sick. In fact, kidney failure can occur as a result of receiving an incompatible blood type.
  • Doctor error. Sometimes doctors may make mistakes and give patients blood transfusions when they didn’t need one, or a surgeon may fail to give someone a transfusion when one was necessary.
  • Incorrect administration. Sometimes a medical staff member may accidentally perform the procedure at a high infusion rate or give a patient an excessive volume of blood. This could be caused from poor training or distraction.
  • Improper storage of blood. Most hospitals and surgical centers have strict procedures surrounding blood storage, but sometimes poor staff training occurs and a patient is given blood that was poorly stored.

Although most blood transfusions save lives, some people aren’t so fortunate and are victims of such errors. If a medical professional made a mistake when giving you or a loved one a blood transfusion, or if you suspect that to be the case, please contact our law firm today. We can provide you with a free consultation, explain the medical malpractice laws, and start investigating the incident. We would be honored to join you on your journey in seeking justice.