This is an acute (<24 hours), immunological transfusion reaction.
When to suspect this adverse reaction?
Acute onset of fever, chills, dyspnoea, tachypnoea, tachycardia, hypotension, hypoxaemia and noncardiogenic bilateral pulmonary oedema leading to respiratory failure during or within 6 hours of transfusion.
TRALI has been implicated in transfusion of unfractionated plasma-containing components (red cells, platelets and plasma).(1,3)
The true incidence is unknown but variably reported between 1:1200 to 1:190 000 transfusions(1) with estimates around 1:10 000 most commonly reported. TRALI is thought to be the most common cause of transfusion-associated fatalities.(2,3)
The most widely held pathogenesis theory is that passive transfer of human leucocyte antigen (HLA) or human neutrophil antigen (HNA) antibodies found in the donor’s plasma are directed against the recipient’s leucocyte antigen.(1,2,3)
The antigen-antibody reaction activates neutrophils in the lung microcirculation, releasing oxidases and proteases that damage blood vessels and make them leak.
Biological response modifiers, such as biologically active lipids can accumulate in some cellular components during storage and may also induce TRALI in susceptible patients.(2,3)
TRALI has many clinical features in common with fluid overload or cardiogenic pulmonary oedema and careful clinical assessment is required.
Once TRALI is clinically suspected, test the donor and recipient serum for HLA and HNA antibodies and perform an HLA type on the recipient as demonstration of these antibodies supports diagnosis. TRALI testing is specialised and contact with the Blood Service is necessary.
Chest X-ray will show bilateral interstitial infiltrates.
What to do?
Stop transfusion immediately and follow other steps for managing suspected transfusion reactions.
Provide cardiovascular and airway support. Administer supplemental oxygen and employ ventilation as necessary. Diuretics are not beneficial.
This may become a medical emergency; support blood pressure and maintain an open airway.
Notify your Transfusion Service Provider to contact the Blood Service so we can quarantine and test related components from the same donor and prevent TRALI in other recipients.
Reducing the risk of antibody-mediated TRALI
To reduce the risk of antibody-mediated TRALI, donors with a possibility of having HLA or HNA antibodies either because of a history of pregnancy or transfusion are not used for plasma products or apheresis platelets.
Two significant changes the Blood Service has made as part of its TRALI Risk Reducation Strategy are:
1. Male-only plasma
Only blood or plasma from male donors is used in the manufacture of clinical plasma products such as FFP or cryoprecipitate.
This stratagem was first introduced in 2007 and since July 2012, 100% of FFP and cryoprecipitate issued by the Blood Service has come from male donors.
2. Apheresis platelets collected from male and nulligravida female donors
To further reduce the TRALI risk associated with apheresis platelets the Blood Service has moved to a plateletpheresis panel comprised of male donors and female donors who have never been pregnant (nulligravida).
This change was introduced during the 2014/15 financial year and since July 2016 100% of apheresis platelets issued by the Blood Service have been from male or nulligravida female donors.
- Mazzei CA, Popovsky MA, Kopko PM. Non-infectious complications of blood transfusion. Chapter 27, AABB Technical Manual, 18th edition. AABB, Bethesda, 2014.
- Callum JL, Lin Y, Pinkerton PH, Karkouti K, Pendergrast JM, Robitaile N et al. Chapter 5, Transfusion Reactions. Bloody Easy 3: Blood Transfusions, Blood Alternatives and Transfusion Reactions: A Guide to Transfusion Medicine, 3rd edition. Canada: Ontario Regional Blood Coordinating Network, 2011. [cited 2012 Sep 13]. Available from: http://transfusionontario.org/en/cmdownloads/categories/bloody_easy/
- Popovsky M (ed). Transfusion reactions, 4th edition. AABB Press, Bethesda, 2012.