Female Blood Donor Concern May Be Unfounded

No link between women's plasma, rare lung condition, study finds

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TUESDAY, Oct. 23, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Blood plasma donated by females may not be as dangerous as believed, says a team who question a proposed policy change that would limit the use of plasma from female donors due to the risk of a rare but potentially serious lung condition called transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI).

Plasma -- the liquid portion of blood that's separated from red blood cells after a person donated blood -- from females has been implicated as a cause of TRALI, a condition where the lungs fill with fluid. TRALI occurs in an estimated 1 in 1,300 transfusions to 1 in 5,000 transfusions and is the leading cause of transfusion-related death in the United States.

Because of the suspected link between female plasma and TRALI, blood banks in the United States are considering limiting the use of female plasma. Since 2004, the United Kingdom has used only plasma from male donors.

In the study, a team from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., analyzed 8,300 heart surgery patients. They found no association between transfused female plasma and any harmful outcomes. In fact, the researchers found that patients who received only female plasma had a significant fewer complications.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Blood Banks.

"Our data showed no deleterious effect associated with female plasma transfusion, and even pointed toward the possibility of a protective effect," Duke anesthesiologist Dr. Ian Welsby said in a prepared statement.

"TRALI is important, and effective preventive steps should be taken to prevent it; however, we believe that more prospective data needs to be evaluated prior to enacting a policy such as the one in the United Kingdom," Welsby said.

"The bottom line is that female donor plasma may not be as harmful as it has been made out to be, and antibodies from female plasma are only one source of TRALI."

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about possible blood product transfusion risks.

SOURCE: Duke University, news release, Oct. 22, 2007

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