Condition 101 About Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction

What is the definition of Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction?

A hemolytic transfusion reaction is a serious complication that can occur after a blood transfusion. The reaction occurs when the red blood cells that were given during the transfusion are destroyed by the person's immune system. When red blood cells are destroyed, the process is called hemolysis.

There are other types of allergic transfusion reactions that do not cause hemolysis.

What are the alternative names for Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction?

Blood transfusion reaction

What are the causes for Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction?

Blood is classified into four different types: A, B, AB, and O.

Another way blood cells may be classified is by Rh factors. People who have Rh factors in their blood are called "Rh positive." People without these factors are called "Rh negative." Rh negative people form antibodies against Rh factor if they receive Rh positive blood.

There are also other factors to identify blood cells, in addition to ABO and Rh.

Your immune system can usually tell its own blood cells from those of another person. If you receive blood that is not compatible with your blood, your body produces antibodies to destroy the donor's blood cells. This process causes the transfusion reaction. Blood that you receive in a transfusion must be compatible with your own blood. This means that your body does not have antibodies against the blood you receive.

Most of the time, a blood transfusion between compatible groups (such as O+ to O+) does not cause a problem. Blood transfusions between incompatible groups (such as A+ to O-) cause an immune response. This can lead to a serious transfusion reaction. The immune system attacks the donated blood cells, causing them to burst.

Today, all blood is carefully screened. Transfusion reactions are rare.

What are the symptoms for Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction?

Symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Back pain
  • Bloody urine
  • Chills
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Fever
  • Flank pain
  • Flushing of the skin

Symptoms of a hemolytic transfusion reaction most often appear during or right after the transfusion. Sometimes, they may develop after several days (delayed reaction).

What are the current treatments for Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction?

If symptoms occur during the transfusion, the transfusion must be stopped right away. Blood samples from the recipient (person getting the transfusion) and from the donor may be tested to tell whether symptoms are being caused by a transfusion reaction.

Mild symptoms may be treated with:

  • Acetaminophen, a pain reliever to reduce fever and discomfort
  • Fluids given through a vein (intravenous) and other medicines to treat or prevent kidney failure and shock

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction?

Outcome depends on how severe the reaction is. The disorder may disappear without problems. Or, it may be severe and life threatening.

What are the possible complications for Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction?

Complications may include:

  • Acute kidney failure
  • Anemia
  • Lung problems
  • Shock

When should I contact a medical professional for Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction?

Tell your health care provider if you are having a blood transfusion and you have had a reaction before.

How do I prevent Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction?

Donated blood is put into ABO and Rh groups to reduce the risk of transfusion reaction.

Before a transfusion, recipient and donor blood are tested (cross-matched) to see if they are compatible. A small amount of donor blood is mixed with a small amount of recipient blood. The mixture is checked under a microscope for signs of antibody reaction.

Before the transfusion, your provider will usually check again to make sure you are receiving the right blood.



Goodnough LT. Transfusion medicine. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 177.

Hall JE. Blood types; transfusion; tissue and organ transplantation. In: Hall JE, ed. Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 36.

Savage W. Transfusion reactions to blood and cell therapy products. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, et al, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 119.

Top Global Doctors For Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction

Latest Advances On Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction

  • Condition: Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia
  • Journal: Zhongguo shi yan xue ye xue za zhi
  • Treatment Used: Blood Transfusion and Hormone Therapy
  • Number of Patients: 40
  • Published —
This study tested the safety and efficacy of using a blood transfusion alongside hormone therapy to treat patients with autoimmune hemolytic anemia.
  • Condition: Sickle Cell Disease (SCD)
  • Journal: The Cochrane database of systematic reviews
  • Treatment Used: Preoperative Blood Transfusions vs Different Regimens vs No Transfusion
  • Number of Patients: 990
  • Published —
This study compared the effectiveness of aggressive versus conservative preoperative (before surgery) blood transfusion (medical procedure in which donated blood is provided through a narrow tube placed within a vein in the arm) regimens in patients with sickle cell disease (inherited red blood cell disorders; SCD).

Clinical Trials For Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction

Clinical Trial
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Phase: N/A
  • Intervention Type: Device
  • Participants: 3000
  • Start Date: April 10, 2020
Evaluation of the Clinical Performances of a Point of Care Analyzer Enabling Pre-transfusion ABOD Group Ultimate Verification at the Patient Bedside
Clinical Trial
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Phase: Phase 2
  • Intervention Type: Drug, Biological
  • Participants: 40
  • Start Date: February 27, 2020
ZEPLAST- PED: ZEro_PLASma Trial in Small Infants Undergoing Cardiac Surgery Randomized Controlled Pilot Phase II Study