Red blood cell transfusion, risks and limitations

  • Francesco Mercuriali
  • G. Inghilleri


Allogeneic blood transfusion was traditionally considered a necessary support in surgery to treat or prevent imminent inadequate delivery of oxygen to tissues induced by surgical related anemia, but it is now perceived as a procedure to be avoided. The safety of blood supply has been in question since the first cases of transfusion transmitted AIDS in the early 1980. In response to this crisis blood collection centres implemented a successful multilayered safety net which has dramatically reduced infectious risk of allogeneic blood. However, although currently the blood supply is safer than it ever has been, it is unlikely that blood transfusion will ever be a risk free procedure. There would always remain the possibility of the emergence of new unknown agents and even in already known diseases there may always be a group of infectious donors who, at various phases of their infection, will be undetectable even with the most sensitive screening tests. Moreover it is necessary to define, together with the risk of transfusion transmitted infections, the nature and magnitude of all the other potential risk of blood transfusion such as the immunological risks and circulatory and metabolic complication. Accurate estimates of blood transfusion risks are important to enable physicians and patients to make informed decisions about whether to receive an allogeneic transfusion or to select other therapeutic options (Table 1).


Blood Transfusion Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Allogeneic Blood Allogeneic Blood Transfusion Transfusion Reaction 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag/Wien 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesco Mercuriali
    • 1
  • G. Inghilleri
    • 1
  1. 1.Immunohematology and Transfusion ServiceIstituto Ortopedico Gaetano PiniMilanoItaly

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