Risks associated with transfusion of cellular blood components in Canada

Transfus Med Rev. 2003 Apr;17(2):120-62. doi: 10.1053/tmrv.2003.50009.


We provide a comprehensive review of risks associated with allogeneic red blood cell and platelet transfusions in Canada. The review focuses on clinically symptomatic noninfectious transfusion risks (acute and delayed hemolytic, febrile nonhemolytic [FNHTR], allergic, volume overload, transfusion-related acute lung injury, graft-versus-host disease, and posttransfusion purpura) and the risk of clinically significant disease from transfusion-transmitted infections. Data sources include information from Canadian Blood Services, Héma-Québec, Health Canada, and the Québec Hemovigilance System as well as published information from research studies and international hemovigilance systems. We estimate that in 2000 the aggregate risk of potentially severe reactions (excluding FNHTR and minor allergic reactions) was 43.2 per 100000 red cell units (95% confidence interval [CI]: 38.7-48.1), affecting 337 recipients, and 125.7 per 100000 platelet pools of 5 units (95% CI: 100.8-154.9), affecting 88 recipients. The most frequent potentially severe outcomes for red cell transfusion were hemolytic reactions and volume overload and for platelet transfusion were major allergic reactions and bacterial contamination. The current risk of human immunodeficiency virus and hepatitis C virus transmission is approximately 1 in 4 million and 1 in 3 million units, respectively. These estimates are useful for decisions concerning transfusion therapy, the informed consent process, and for evaluating efficacy of interventions to reduce risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Component Transfusion / adverse effects*
  • Canada
  • Data Collection
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment