ABO Incompatibility Reaction

What is an ABO incompatibility reaction?

ABO is an abbreviation of the different four basic blood groups based on the presence or absence of an antigen in the red blood cells. These blood groups are A, AB, B, and O based on the different antigens located on the red blood cells.

A person experiences an ABO incompatibility reaction when he or she receives the wrong type of blood during a transfusion. It is a rare but fatal medical error. The symptoms are due to a response by your immune system to incompatible blood.

This is what happens in an ABO incompatibility reaction: The immune system manufactures antibodies not present in the recipient’s blood. The antibodies fight these strange antigens so as to eliminate it. Although this reaction seems to be protective in reality, the immune system does not know it is actually destructive to the recipient’s life. In the process, the red blood cells are destroyed.

The only person that will always escape this reaction is an AB recipient. He or she can receive blood from anyone in the four different blood groups.

ABO incompatibility reaction

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Causes of ABO incompatibility reaction

Medica/human error is the major cause of an ABO incompatibility reaction. If you are transfused with the wrong blood type, it could be attributed to mislabeled blood, failure to examine the blood before transfusion, or incorrectly completed forms.

Symptoms of ABO incompatibility reaction

Symptoms of an ABO incompatibility reaction usually manifest within a few minutes of receiving a blood transfusion. They include:

  • chills and fever
  • a strong feeling that you are about to experience something bad
  • breathing difficulties
  • nausea
  • muscle aches
  • jaundice
  • blood in your urine
  • back pain
  • pains in your stomach
  • chest pain

Diagnosis for ABO incompatibility reaction

If you react to blood transfusion, your healthcare provider will stop the transfusion immediately. Then they will launch an investigation.

They will obtain a sample of your blood to test for damage to your red blood cells. This will help them to know whether there is a reaction or not. The presence of hemoglobin in your urine indicates that your red cells are damaged.

Your healthcare provider will also monitor your vital sign. These include:

  • breathing rate
  • blood pressure
  • heart rate
  • temperature

Treatments for ABO incompatibility reaction

You will probably be taken to the intensive care unit.

The aim of the treatment is to ensure that you do not develop complications such as kidney failure, low blood pressure, or excessive clotting of your blood.

You will be given intravenous fluid, platelet, and plasma transmission to help build your blood volume and check excessive blood clotting. Your urine output will have to be increased so you can get rid of excessive blood products resulting from red blood cell damage. A drug will be given to you to achieve this.

How to prevent an ABO incompatibility reaction

This is largely in the hands of the medical personnel involved in the blood transfusion process. If the blood samples are properly labeled, if the blood groups of the two people involved – donor and recipient – are carefully detailed and compared before the actual transfusion, ABO compatibility reaction will be way impossible.

Long-term outlook

Any of the following can result from an incompatibility reaction;

  • Kidney failure due to products of red blood cells damage
  • Liver failure
  • Stroke
  • Blood clotting
  • Uncontrollable and excessive internal bleeding due to loss of clotting factors in the blood.
  • Chronic anemia

Either of these can be promptly attended to before they grow into complications that are life-threatening.