Why are irradiated cellular blood components needed?

Irradiated blood is given to prevent rare complications of transfusion called transfusion- associated graft-versus-host disease (TA-GvHD). 

What TA-GvHD?

TA-GvHD is a rare but serious complication of blood transfusion caused by white blood cells (lymphocytes) in the blood transfused.

Even a very small number of lymphocytes may recognise the patient receiving the blood as '' foreign " and cause a severe illness or even death.

Which patients are at increased risk of TA - GvHD?

Some patients are at particular risk of TA- GvHD. these include:

  • Patients receiving transfusions from family members or HLA-matched donors.
  • Patients with inherited or acquired deficiencies in immunity
  • Patients with a disease such as Hodgkin's disease or due to chemotherapy.
  • Patients have undergone procedures such as bone marrow / stem cell transplantation.
  • Fetal and neonatal transfusions.
  • Immuno-compromized patients

How does irradiation work?

Irradiation of cellular blood components prevents donor lymphocytes proliferating against host tissues.

Do all types of blood need to be irradiated?

RBCs and platelet transfusions are irradiated according to the above indications.

All granulocyte (white cells) transfusions are routinely irradiated.

Fresh frozen plasma, anti-D, albumin and immunoglobulin do not need to be irradiated.

Does irradiation damage the blood?

It is not thought to cause any significant damage. The blood does not become radioactive" and will not harm you or anyone around you.

What if blood is needed in an emergency?

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