Transfusion-Related Acute Lung Injury*: A Review

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Transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) is an underreported complication of transfusion therapy, and it is the third most common cause of transfusion-associated death. TRALI is defined as noncardiogenic pulmonary edema temporally related to transfusion therapy. The diagnosis of TRALI relies on excluding other diagnoses such as sepsis, volume overload, and cardiogenic pulmonary edema. Supportive diagnostic evidence includes identifying neutrophil or human leukocyte antigen (HLA) antibodies in the donor or recipient plasma. All plasma-containing blood products have been implicated in TRALI, with the majority of cases linked to whole blood, packed RBCs, platelets, and fresh-frozen plasma. The pathogenesis of TRALI may be explained by a “two-hit” hypothesis, with the first “hit” being a predisposing inflammatory condition commonly present in the operating room or ICU. The second hit may involve the passive transfer of neutrophil or HLA antibodies from the donor or the transfusion of biologically active lipids from older, cellular blood products. Treatment is supportive, with a prognosis substantially better than most causes of clinical acute lung injury.

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