Dr. Neil Blumberg of New York's University of Rochester Medical Center and colleagues say filtering or washing donor blood may help create safer, simpler approaches to transfusion therapy.
For 14 years as the Rochester Medical Center has been filtering out the white cells from donor blood using a process called universal leukoreduction. During this period, Blumberg says his team has been monitoring transfusion reactions.
The study, published in the journal Transfusion, reports rates of acute, transfusion-related lung injury dropped 83 percent in the years after filtering took place and transfusion-associated circulatory overload declined 49 percent.
Blumberg explains both conditions are rare, but are among the most common causes of death following a transfusion.
"These data are very exciting because we described two unexpected and unexplained associations between adverse reactions and leukoreduction, " Blumberg said in a statement.
"However, our observations do not prove cause and effect, and therefore require further investigation before we can say with certainty that leukoreduction is responsible for so many fewer cardiopulmonary complications."