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What are the dangers in receiving the wrong blood type?

Every year, countless patients here in Providence and throughout the rest of the country enter hospitals and surgical centers to undergo procedures. These procedures range from simple surgeries that may take only a few minutes to highly-complex operative sessions involving multiple surgical teams working for many hours. Surgical patients place a great deal of trust on those performing and assisting with their operations. While that trust is typically warranted, it should be remembered that these people are prone to mistakes just like everyone else. It's when these mistakes involve seemingly simple missteps that lead to potentially fatal consequences that healthcare providers come under fire.

One such error is administering an incorrect blood component. According to data shared by the Pennsylvania Safety Authority, one out of every 10,000 units of transfused blood is administered to the wrong recipient, is some cases even to those with the wrong blood type. Receiving an incompatible blood type can lead to a serious ABO incompatibility reaction, these results of which can be: 

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Increased blood clotting
  • Vital organ shutdown
  • Kidney failure
  • Stroke
  • Death

The Signs and symptoms of blood contamination typically occur almost immediately after a transfusion. These can include difficulty breathing, muscle pain, nausea, an elevated fever, chest pain, and/or jaundice.

Incorrect blood may be administered as a result of mislabeled blood products or incomplete patient paperwork. Yet the most common reported cause of blood transfusion errors are simple identification errors made at the patient's bedside. Most healthcare facilities have strict guidelines in place to prevent incorrectly identifying a patient. While this information should not be viewed as a substitute for legal advice, one may easily assume that a transfusion error occurred because of a failure to follow policy by his or her medical caregiver.  

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Providence Personal Injury Office

199 North Main Street
Providence, RI 02903

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