Transfusion Complications Monitoring

At a glance

Learn about transfusion complications and access available resources on this topic.


CDC's transfusion complications monitoring work is helping us learn more about the health issues that sometimes occur after people with sickle cell disease (SCD) or thalassemia receive blood transfusions.

Transfusions for people with SCD and thalassemia

Red blood cell (RBC) transfusions (procedures in which blood is given through an intravenous [IV] line into a blood vessel) are an important part of medical care for many patients with a hemoglobinopathy. Hemoglobinopathies is the medical term for a group of blood disorders and diseases that affect RBCs. These disorders include both SCD and thalassemia.

RBC transfusions are often used to

  • Treat people with severe forms of thalassemia who develop anemia, a condition in which the blood does not have enough healthy RBCs; and
  • Prevent health problems for people with SCD

While these transfusions are very helpful for treating issues related to blood disorders, they can lead to additional health problems including

  • Alloimmunization—a condition in which a person's immune system sees the blood from a transfusion as possibly harmful and, therefore, tries to destroy it
  • Iron overload—a buildup of excess iron in the body that can result in organ damage if left untreated
  • Infection

CDC works with partners to better understand these health problems.

CDC activities

Previously, CDC funded and collaborated with programs at three universities—Georgia State University, the University of Florida, and the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital – Oakland—to compile existing training resources and develop new educational and multimedia materials for both healthcare providers and patients and their communities. These materials are designed to

  • Provide information about blood transfusions and call attention to the health problems that can occur in people receiving regular blood transfusions
  • Describe the steps that can be taken to prevent or reduce health problems
  • Raise awareness about the importance of blood donations from people with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds to help reduce complications in people with hemoglobinopathies who receive transfusions

The project's goal was to improve the quality and length of life for people with a hemoglobinopathy.

In a current project CDC funds and collaborates with programs at three universities—Georgia State University Research Foundation, Inc.; the Joan & Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University; and the Regents of the University of California San Francisco—to develop resources for healthcare providers, blood banks, and people with thalassemia and their families. These resources provide key information from a recent evidence-based report that details recommendations for the transfusion management of beta thalassemia in the United States.