April 19, 2009

Program to track transfusion problems

A group of U.S. hospitals and medical centers this week will begin collectively tracking dangerous reactions to blood transfusions, officials said.

The Baltimore Sun reported Sunday that among hospitals taking part in the so-called biovigilance program is Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The program is aimed at reducing the number of infections, allergic reactions, clerical errors and other complications related to blood transfusions. The newspaper noted such complications last year claimed 46 lives in the United States.

The voluntary monitoring program asks hospital blood banks to report information about reactions or other complications to a central data bank.

Other countries have tracked similar data for years, experts said.

We've sort of fallen behind efforts in the rest of the world, said Dr. Paul Ness, director of transfusion medicine at Johns Hopkins. We'd like to be able to educate recipients about potential risks, but what, really, is the incidence of these reactions? We don't know.

Currently, only deaths from blood transfusions are required to be reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Dr. Matthew Kuehnert, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office of Blood, Organ and Other Tissue Safety.

People see blood as being safe, and it is -- very safe, Kuehnert said. But there are still reactions, and some of them can be prevented.