Acute NON-Haemolytic Transfusion Reactions (bsh 2012)



SHOT receives approx. 30-40 reports of anaphylactic reactions per year

Management of ATR’s is guided by signs and symptoms, rather than classification


Acute Transfusion Reaction – SHOT Definition:

  • Reactions occurring within 24 hours of administration of blood or blood components excluding incorrect component transfusion, haemolytic reactions, TRALI, TACO and bacterial contamination.

  • More useful clinically to use a wider definition including the above complications



  • Many febrile reactions thought to result from reaction to donor white cells or accumulation of biological response modifiers during storage.

  • This is supported by the reduction of cases since the introduction of universal leukodepletion.

  • Recipient factors are also important in predicting ATR.


Clinical Assessment of ATR


Staff/Patient Recognition of ATR

Patients must be monitored throughout transfusion

Give patient contact card if day case and advise to call if any symptoms within 24 hours of the transfusion.


Clinical Signs/Symptoms

Fever, chills, rigors, flushing

Itch, urticaria

Myalgia or bone pain

Hyper or hypo-tension

Respiratory distress, Collapse

General malaise or nausea

Acute onset bleeding diathesis


Universal actions

Stop transfusion and maintain IV access with Saline

Assess ABC and call for help if indicated

Check patient identity against component being transfused

Examine component for clumps / discolouration

Then manage as per mild, moderate severe reaction protocols.


Mild Reactions

E.g. pyrexia >38oC + rise of 1-2oC from baseline with or without rash

Continue transfusion with appropriate treatment and direct observation.


Moderate Reactions

E.g. pyrexia >39oC or rise of >2oC and or other symptoms except for rash/itch only.

Medical review of likely cause

If consistent with underlying condition continue transfusion at slower rate under direct observation.



Severe Reactions

All other cases that are not mild or moderate + in keeping with underlying condition

Anaphylaxis (Shock + Wheeze/Stridor/Hypotension)

  • Resuscitation + IM Adrenaline 0.5ml of 1:1000

Shock without anaphylaxis or fluid overload

  • Consider ABO incompatibility or bacterial contamination

  • Resuscitation + ITU and Renal Support

  • Correction of DIC / Coagulopathy

  • If ABO incompatibility due to component intended for another patient contact transfusion lab immediately to prevent a further incident.

  • If bacterial contamination, immediately inform lab + haematologist on-call to consider contacting blood service to withdraw associated units.

Breathlessness without shock



Laboratory Investigation of ATR


Standard Ix for All Patients

  • FBC U&E, LFT

  • Urine assessment for haemoglobin


Further testing dependent of clinical signs and symptoms


Febrile Patients

  • Implicated unit returned to transfusion lab for further testing

  • Patient sampling for cultures and repeat compatibility testing

  • Contact Blood Service


Moderate-Severe Allergic Reactions

  • Measure IgA level

  • Isolated low IgA level —> confirmatory testing and IgA antibody detection

  • Discuss IgA deficiency with immunologist

  • Listen to this podcast with Blood Bank Guy for detailed discussion of limitations in testing for and diagnosing IgA-related anaphylactic transfusion reactions.


Management of Repeated Reactions


Recurrent febrile non-haemolytic transfusion reactions (FNHTR)

  • Plasma removal was beneficial prior to universal leukodepletion

  • Trial of pre-med paracetamol but no good evidence

  • Trial of washed blood components if continues to react


Recurrent Allergic Reactions

  • No trials assessing pre-med use of hydrocortisone + chlorphenamine

  • Pooled SD-FFP reduces rates of reaction for FFP transfusions


Severe IgA Deficiency with Anti-IgA Antibodies and history of Allergic Transfusion Reaction

  • IgA-deficient donors should be used

  • If not available in a clinically relevant time frame, washed components can be given under direct observation with access to resus facilities.

Patient incidentally identified as IgA deficient

  • Experience suggests serious reactions are still very rare in this group

  • Discuss with transfusion haematologist or immunologist.


Hypotensive Reactions

  • Washed components can be tried in cases of unexplained recurrent hypotensive episodes

  • ACEI should be stopped if thought due to bradykinin-release


Reporting ATR


Legal requirement to report to MHRA (BSQR is the UK responsible body)


Professional responsibility to report to SHOT haemovigilance scheme

(also a lab accreditation and hospital quality assurance scheme requirement).


Reporting to NHSBT will protect other potential recipient of associated blood components.


Local reporting to Hospital Transfusion Team will aid in the above and allow for local intervention and audit.