Blood-Transfusion Reaction

Autologous Transfusion

What Is a Blood Transfusion?

Symptoms triggered by a blood transfusion that may affect the blood, blood vessels, kidneys; heart, skin, central nervous system, lungs.

Notify your physician if

You or a family member has symptoms of a blood transfusion reaction during or after a transfusion. Call immediately. This is an emergency!

Frequent signs and symptoms

Less serious:

  • Chills and fever.
  • Backache or other aches and pains.
  • Hives and itching.
More serious:
  • Blood-cell destruction (hemolysis) causing shortness of breath, severe headache, chest or back pain and blood in the urine.


Transfusions of a different blood type than that of the patient. This may occur from errors in matching or from the use of incompletely matched blood in an emergency.

Risk increases with

  • Blood transfusions in emergency situations, when careful typing and matching of blood must be bypassed.
  • Blood transfusions from donors who carry infections.
  • Multiple blood transfusions.
  • Rh negative mother.

Preventive measures

  • Blood-bank and hospital personnel have safety procedures to prevent reactions except in situations that are uncontrollable (see Causes).
  • Use of diphenhydramine (an antihistamine) and acetaminophen prior to transfusion may prevent minor reactions.
  • Let the doctor or medical personnel know of any prior history of a response to transfusions.
  • If surgery is planned at least 1 month in advance, your own blood may be drawn and stored for use during surgery, if necessary. Transfusion with your own blood is least likely to produce a reaction.

Expected outcomes

Most reactions clear gradually after the transfusion is halted. A few reactions are fatal.

Possible complications

  • Acute kidney failure.
  • Anaphylaxis.
  • Congestive heart failure from too rapid transfusion.


  • Hospitalization is required. Patients receiving transfusions are usually in a hospital or outpatient surgical facility, and reactions can be treated when they occur.
  • Stay awake and alert during a blood transfusion, if possible, so you can notify medical personnel immediately if symptoms occur.
  • Transfusion will be stopped immediately at first sign of reaction.
  • All vital signs will be monitored and preventive measures implemented to minimize complications.
  • Supplemental oxygen if required.

Additional Information



Bed rest at first. Resume your normal activities as soon as symptoms improve after transfusion.


No special diet.