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What is blood contamination?

Every year, countless people in Providence County receive life-saving blood transfusions. If you have received such treatment, then the thought of whether or not the blood being used was safe likely never crossed your mind. Yet what if it was not? Even the best sterile environments may not be able to offer complete protection against the invasion of bacteria into blood products. If you happen to receive contaminated blood, the results could be fatal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 1 in 1,000-3,000 units of blood platelets may be tainted with bacteria, making blood contamination the most likely source of transfusion-related infections. While sepsis due to contaminated transfusions has been proven to account for at least 1 in every 100,000 blood product recipients, many believe cases are underreported.

The most common bacteria shown to infect blood products are gram-positive organisms such as staphylococcus aureus and streptococcus pneumoniae. Gram-negative organisms tend to found less in platelet units, yet any health complications they create may be more severe. The most common cause of blood contamination is believed to be improper storage. However, your doctor may not even be able to show that the blood you are being given is contaminated, given that there is currently no clinical test available to prove if it is.

Because of this, your doctor will likely only know if you did receive contaminated blood after the fact, either by blood-culture tests of the original blood product confirming it, of it you present with symptoms of blood poisoning. While the current standard of care allows a doctor to use his or her own judgment about whether or not to notify you after you have received contaminated blood, his or her failure to do so could certainly be viewed as recklessly endangering you.   

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Providence Personal Injury Office

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Providence, RI 02903

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