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Protecting patient safety: how tracking adverse events can help


Jeudi, janvier 23, 2020 Tricia Abe

Although it doesn’t happen often, sometimes patients will have a bad reaction during or after a blood transfusion. These incidents can range from a minor complication like a fever or allergic reaction, to a life-threatening situation, such as when a patient’s immune system destroys the red blood cells they received through transfusion. When an adverse transfusion reaction happens, it gets reported to the hospital’s transfusion service, also known as the blood bank, and may be reported to the manufacturer and to provincial and national surveillance systems as well.

It’s one more reason why Canada’s blood supply is recognized as one of the safest in the world. 

Why all the tracking? Keeping track of adverse transfusion reactions — not only how often they occur, but also the specifics related to each event, including a description of symptoms, actions taken to manage the patient, the type of blood component or plasma protein product suspected of causing the reaction, and the patient’s outcome — is central to patient safety. For example, reporting could lead to other blood components from the same donor being recalled. Or, tracking could help identify points in the transfusion chain where errors occur so that improvements can be made.

For health professionals working in hospitals, the reporting pathways (which vary depending on what was transfused and the nature of the reaction) might seem confusing. In a recently published guide to reporting adverse transfusion events, Dr. Matthew Yan, a transfusion medicine physician and Canadian Blood Services medical officer, says, “As a general rule, if there is ever any doubt on whether reporting is required, it is better to over-report than under-report.” 

Collectively, the surveillance programs established to monitor the safety of our blood supply can help identify any new or emerging issues that could affect patient safety. It’s one more reason why Canada’s blood supply is recognized as one of the safest in the world. 


Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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