Intracerebral hemorrhage among blood donors and their transfusion recipients


Recent reports have suggested that cerebral amyloid angiopathy, a common cause of multiple spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhages (ICHs), may be transmissible through parenteral injection of contaminated cadaveric pituitary hormone in humans.
To determine whether spontaneous ICH in blood donors after blood donation is associated with development of spontaneous ICH in transfusion recipients.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Exploratory retrospective cohort study using nationwide blood bank and health register data from Sweden (main cohort) and Denmark (validation cohort) and including all 1 089 370 patients aged 5 to 80 years recorded to have received a red blood cell transfusion from January 1, 1970 (Sweden), or January 1, 1980 (Denmark), until December 31, 2017.
Receipt of red blood cell transfusions from blood donors who subsequently developed (1) a single spontaneous ICH, (2) multiple spontaneous ICHs, or (3) no spontaneous ICH.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Spontaneous ICH in transfusion recipients; ischemic stroke was a negative control outcome.
A total of 759 858 patients from Sweden (median age, 65 [IQR, 48-73] years; 59% female) and 329 512 from Denmark (median age, 64 [IQR, 50-73] years; 58% female) were included, with a median follow-up of 5.8 (IQR, 1.4-12.5) years and 6.1 (IQR, 1.5-11.6) years, respectively. Patients who underwent transfusion with red blood cell units from donors who developed multiple spontaneous ICHs had a significantly higher risk of a single spontaneous ICH themselves, compared with patients receiving transfusions from donors who did not develop spontaneous ICH, in both the Swedish cohort (unadjusted incidence rate [IR], 3.16 vs 1.12 per 1000 person-years; adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 2.73; 95% CI, 1.72-4.35; P < .001) and the Danish cohort (unadjusted IR, 2.82 vs 1.09 per 1000 person-years; adjusted HR, 2.32; 95% CI, 1.04-5.19; P = .04). No significant difference was found for patients receiving transfusions from donors who developed a single spontaneous ICH in the Swedish cohort (unadjusted IR, 1.35 vs 1.12 per 1000 person-years; adjusted HR, 1.06; 95% CI, 0.84-1.36; P = .62) nor the Danish cohort (unadjusted IR, 1.36 vs 1.09 per 1000 person-years; adjusted HR, 1.06; 95% CI, 0.70-1.60; P = .73), nor for ischemic stroke as a negative control outcome.
Conclusions and Relevance
In an exploratory analysis of patients who received red blood cell transfusions, patients who underwent transfusion with red blood cells from donors who later developed multiple spontaneous ICHs were at significantly increased risk of spontaneous ICH themselves. This may suggest a transfusion-transmissible agent associated with some types of spontaneous ICH, although the findings may be susceptible to selection bias and residual confounding, and further research is needed to investigate if transfusion transmission of cerebral amyloid angiopathy might explain this association.

Journal details

Journal JAMA
Volume 330
Issue number 10
Pages 941-950
Available online
Publication date