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Side Effects of a Blood Platelet Transfusion

author image Rae Uddin
Rae Uddin has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2004. She specializes in scientific journalism and medical and technical writing. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Uddin earned her Master of Science in integrated biomedical sciences with an emphasis in molecular and cellular biochemistry from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
Side Effects of a Blood Platelet Transfusion
Side Effects of a Blood Platelet Transfusion Photo Credit Keith Brofsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Platelets are a component of the blood that help prevent bruising or stop bleeding. If you do not have enough platelets in your blood, you may need to have a blood platelet transfusion. This treatment infuses your body with blood platelets that have been donated by another healthy person. Though the majority of people respond well to blood platelet transfusion, side effects might occur in certain people.

Fever and Chills

Blood platelet transfusion can cause approximately 1 to 2 percent of patients to develop fever or chills, according to the National Marrow Donor Program. If you develop these symptoms, your doctor might provide you with medication to help prevent this reaction from occurring during future platelet transfusions.

Immune-Mediated Platelet Destruction

In certain cases, your body may be resistant to the platelet transfusion—a condition called refractoriness to platelet transfusion. When this occurs, the immune system of the body attacks the platelets given through transfusion. This causes the destruction of the platelets and renders the transfusion treatment ineffective.

Allergic Reaction

The Practice Guidelines for Blood Transfusion published by the American Red Cross in 2007 explains that some patients may experience an allergic reaction during or immediately following the platelet transfusion. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include itchy skin (urticaria), wheezing or severe swelling beneath the skin (angioedematous). If such a reaction occurs, your doctor will manage these symptoms through the use of medications such as antihistamines, corticosteroids or epinephrine. Severe allergic reaction—a condition called anaphylaxis—may cause significant breathing difficulties and require immediate treatment with corticosteroids and epinephrine.

Transfusion-Related Acute Lung Injury

Blood platelet transfusion may increase the permeability of your lung tissue, which can cause fluid and protein to leak into the lungs. This condition is called transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) and can cause difficulty breathing or damage to the lung tissue. If you develop TRALI after receiving a blood platelet transfusion, your doctor will treat this condition by providing intensive respiratory support.

Graft-vs-Host Disease

Though rare, some patients who receive a blood platelet transfusion can develop graft-vs-host disease (GVHD). Such a reaction is more common in patients who have a depressed immune system due to disease or chemotherapeutic treatment. GVHD occurs when the donated platelets attack the cells within the body of the transfusion recipient. Symptoms of GVHD might include skin rash, jaundice, diarrhea, fever, breathing difficulties or sore joints and tendons. Patients with GVHD are also more susceptible to developing infection or anemia. Treatment of this life-threatening condition may include either taking steroids or additional medications that decrease your body’s immune response to stop the donated platelets from attacking the body. Treatment may also vary based upon the location of your symptoms.

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