Incidence of transfusion reactions: a multicenter study utilizing systematic active surveillance and expert adjudication

for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Recipient Epidemiology and Donor Evaluation Study (REDS-III)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Prevalence estimates of the serious hazards of transfusion vary widely. We hypothesized that the current reporting infrastructure in the United States fails to capture many transfusion reactions and undertook a multicenter study using active surveillance, data review, and adjudication to test this hypothesis. STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: A retrospective record review was completed for a random sample of 17% of all inpatient transfusion episodes over 6 months at four academic tertiary care hospitals, with an episode defined as all blood products released to a patient in 6 hours. Data were recorded by trained clinical research nurses, and serious reactions were adjudicated by a panel of transfusion medicine experts. RESULTS: Of 4857 transfusion episodes investigated, 1.1% were associated with a serious reaction. Transfusion-associated circulatory overload was the most frequent serious reaction noted, being identified in 1% of transfusion episodes. Despite clinical notes describing a potential transfusion association in 59% of these cases, only 5.1% were reported to the transfusion service. Suspected transfusion-related acute lung injury/possible transfusion-related acute lung injury, anaphylactic, and hypotensive reactions were noted in 0.08, 0.02, and 0.02% of transfusion episodes, respectively. Minor reactions, including febrile nonhemolytic and allergic, were noted in 0.62 and 0.29% of transfusion episodes, respectively, with 30 and 50% reported to the transfusion service. CONCLUSION: Underreporting of cardiopulmonary transfusion reactions is striking among academic, tertiary care hospitals. Complete and accurate reporting is essential to identify, define, establish pathogenesis, and mitigate/treat transfusion reactions. A better understanding of the failure to report may improve the accuracy of passive reporting systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2587-2596
Number of pages10
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Hematology


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