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Home > Personal Injury > Medical negligence > Medical Establishments > Blood transfusions

Blood transfusions

The purpose of a blood transfusion

A blood transfusion can be required for a number of reasons. The most common is to replace acute and / or significant blood loss, which may have been caused by an operation, an accident or injury, or even childbirth.

Blood transfusions may also be required as part of a treatment programme for people with chronic medical conditions, such as sickle cell anaemia and leukaemia.

Whatever the reason for a blood transfusion, consideration should always be given to viable alternatives, as there are inherent risks that accompany blood transfusions. Medicine has progressed significantly over the last few years and an alternative may be available.

For more information about blood transfusions please select one of the links below:

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Blood components and method of blood transfusion

Although the whole blood is taken from the donor, when it is transfused into the recipient, it is not usually the whole blood that is transferred, but certain elements. This may be just the red blood cells, platelets or plasmas. The exact nature of the transfer will depend on what the patient needs, although the most common usage is the transfer of red blood cells.

In order to transfuse the blood into the patient, a small piece of plastic tubing (a cannula) is inserted into a vein, usually in the arm, and this is connected to a drip, which transports the blood from a bag into the arm.

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Risks involved in undergoing a blood transfusion

The physical effects of receiving a blood transfusion are, in the majority of people, minor and recipients should not experience any sensation or discomfort whilst the transfusion takes place.

According to the NHS however, some people may experience symptoms such as a chill or a rash, or a mild temperature. These symptoms can usually be treated by providing paracetamol, or by slowing the transfusion process. These symptoms are a recognised complication of the blood transfusion and cannot be prevented, nor should they cause alarm.

The biggest risk associated with receiving a blood transfusion, again according to the NHS, is being given the wrong blood type. Adopting the standard procedures mentioned below, would minimise this risk, and a situation where the wrong type of blood is transfused would be considered negligent practice and a case for a medical negligence compensation claim.

A more serious risk to the recipient is that of infection during the transfer of blood. Donated blood is systematically checked and screened prior to transfusion, so the risk is considered very low. However, the list of possible infections includes:

More serious indications that something has gone wrong may include blood cell destruction (hemolysis). This may present as shortness of breath, severe headaches, chest or back pain, or blood in the urine. In severe, but thankfully rare, cases sadly the patient may die.

Any patient scheduled to receive a blood transfusion, should be advised of potential risks, as far as possible, before the transfusion treatment begins.

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Minimising the risks involved in receiving a blood transfusion

Before any transfusion takes place, the patient's blood should be tested to ensure that a compatible blood group is being used.

Wherever possible, the recipient of a blood transfusion should be asked verbally to confirm their full name and date of birth. The patient should also wear an identification wristband and this should be checked before each new bag of blood is transfused.

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The Skipton Fund

In March 2004, a scheme known as the Skipton Fund was established by the Department of Health. The scheme is designed to make payments to certain people who have been infected with Hepatitis C as a result of NHS blood treatment.

It is important to note that the infection must have occurred before September 1991 in order to be eligible for the scheme. Additionally, no payments will be made those who have died before 29th August 2003, or to people who cleared the virus spontaneously during the acute phase of the disease.

For those people who do fall within the ambit of the scheme, a first stage payment of £20,000 is typically available. For those who have successful reached the first stage of payment and whose infection has led to advanced liver disease, there is also the option of a second stage payment of £25,000.

Payments can be made to the estate of a deceased patient, if an eligible patient dies prior to obtaining a payment from the Fund.

If you feel that this fund may be relevant to you, further information can be obtained from the official website:

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Example of a recent medical negligence case we have settled

During the first few weeks of his life, Master X contracted Hepatitis C (genotype 1A). Although he received a 6-month combined treatment regime, he was unfortunately not responsive to treatment.

His parents made a claim for medical negligence compensation during his childhood for his contraction of Hepatitis C and this was settled on a provisional basis for the sum of £23,000 in 2002. This left him with the right to return and apply for further compensation should certain events specified in the settlement, subsequently occur.

Master X's family asked for our personal injury compensation claim advice in 2007 after he suffered severe side effects from treatment he had received in the previous twelve months. A liver biopsy had revealed that he was suffering from a virus in his blood system, which needed to be eliminated by pegalated interferon treatment, combined with Ribavirin tablets.

Unfortunately, during this further treatment programme, Master X experienced emotional mood swings, as well as headaches, flu like feelings, fainting and constant tiredness. He developed an unpleasant rash and became sensitive to light, and also suffered from hallucinations.

A minor at the time of this further treatment, and the commencement of his claim for medical negligence compensation, Master X became an adult before the conclusion of his claim. Although he made a full recovery and is unlikely to suffer either any further re-occurrence or long-term complications, he was forced to miss a considerable amount of school. As a result, his entry into college was delayed, as were his ambitions to take up a career in the field of sport and fitness.

Our specialist medical negligence lawyers were able to secure £16,500 in medical negligence compensation for Master X, in respect of this further need for treatment and the unfortunate side effects that accompanied it.

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Compensation claim for medical negligence

Have you or a member of your family suffered as a result of medical negligence during a blood transfusion? For more information about our service or for advice about whether our personal injury lawyers can assist you with a medical negligence compensation claim contact us today on 0800 783 9019 or complete one of our online compensation claim forms. One of our representatives will contact you (without obligation) to discuss the matter further as soon as possible..

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