Transfusion-Associated Graft-Versus-Host Disease (TA-GVHD): Definition and Incidence

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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Transfusion Reactions. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Transfusion-Associated Graft-Versus-Host Disease (TA-GVHD): Definition and Incidence

TA-GVHD is a clinical syndrome occurring from 2 days to 6 weeks after transfusion. It is a rare but highly lethal adverse transfusion reaction. The disease has a 90% mortality rate. It is caused by the transfusion of donor lymphocytes to a recipient who is immunocompromised. The donor lymphocytes engraft and escalate an immune response against the host's tissues, including organs such as the lungs, skin, intestines, and liver. The recipient is unable to destroy the foreign lymphocytes and the cells proliferate and respond to incompatible antigens in the host.
Certain recipients have increased risk for developing TA-GVHD. They are:
  • Newborns who have had intrauterine transfusions
  • Recipients with a congenital or acquired immunodeficiency
  • Patients with hematological malignancies
  • Recipients of donor units from a blood relative