When you consider all the sophisticated and technological medical equipment available for treatment today, receiving a blood transfusion seems pretty routine. In fact, more than 4.5 million people receive blood transfusions in the U.S. every year. However, many of those patients would likely be alarmed to learn of the number of blood transfusion errors that take place every day, some with tragic consequences.

One of the more frequent concerns people have regarding blood transfusions is whether or not the blood has been thoroughly tested and is free of any communicable diseases, such as AIDS or hepatitis.  However, the real dangers from blood transfusions appear to come about as a result of human error, specifically from medical personnel.

From the time blood is taken from a donor until the time it is being administered to a patient, that blood has gone through multiple processes which require multiple protocols. All it takes is one protocol to be ignored or one untrained or negligent medical staff member and that pint of blood can cause serious – even fatal – illness or injury to a patient.

Blood Transfusion Errors

Some of the most common preventable blood transfusion errors include:

  • Improper or incorrect storage of blood. Medical facilities have stringent procedures that should be followed, but if staff fails to follow those procedures, the blood can become tainted.
  • Mixing up patients’ blood. Many patients who know they are having surgery will donate their own blood ahead of time to be used during the operation. However, there are times where the vials the patient’s blood is in is mislabeled with another patient’s name. This negligence can lead to the patient receiving the wrong blood and, depending on the medical circumstances, can cause harm to the patient.
  • Giving the patient the wrong blood type. Everyone has different blood types – either A, AB, B, or O. We also each have an RH factor, either positive or negative. Blood types are not interchangeable. If you have O positive blood, then you should only receive a blood transfusion with O positive blood. If a mix-up occurs and a patient is given the wrong type of blood, they can become very ill, including having kidney failure.
  • Unnecessary blood transfusions. There are times where a physician will incorrectly order a blood transfusion for a patient who does not need one.
  • Transfusion administered incorrectly. If the medical staff who is administering the blood transfusion is not properly trained or is not paying sufficient attention to what they are doing, they may administer the blood at a too high rate of infusion or administer too much blood.

Injuries from Transfusion Errors

Many patients die each year from blood transfusion errors. Those fortunate enough to survive often suffer from severe injury from the transfusion, including heart attack, hypotension, kidney failure, organ failure, respiratory distress, shock, or stroke.

If you or a loved one has suffered blood transfusion medical error injuries, or any other type of preventable medical error, contact a dedicated North Carolina medical malpractice attorney to discuss what your family’s legal options may be against the party or parties whose actions caused those injuries.