Red cell transfusion remains a critical component of care for acute and chronic complications of sickle cell disease. Randomized clinical trials demonstrated the benefits of transfusion therapy for prevention of primary and secondary strokes and postoperative acute chest syndrome. Transfusion for splenic sequestration, acute chest syndrome, and acute stroke are guided by expert consensus recommendations. Despite overall improvements in blood inventory safety, adverse effects of transfusion are prevalent among patients with sickle cell disease and include alloimmunization, acute and delayed hemolytic transfusion reactions, and iron overload. Judicious use of red cell transfusions, optimization of red cell antigen matching, and the use of erythrocytapheresis and iron chelation can minimize adverse effects. Early recognition and management of hemolytic transfusion reactions can avert poor clinical outcomes. In this review, we discuss transfusion methods, indications, and complications in sickle cell disease with an emphasis on alloimmunization.
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