Transfusion-associated graft versus host disease (TA-GVHD) is generally unresponsive to medical treatment. Hematopoetic stem cell transplantation has been successful in rare instances.
Gamma-irradiation of blood components containing viable lymphocytes is effective in preventing TA-GVHD. Irradiation is recommended for all Whole Blood, Red Blood Cell (RBC), Platelet, and Granulocyte transfusions to patients at risk. Patients at risk include neonates less than four months, patients with an acquired or congenital immunodeficiency, or patients receiving a directed donation from a family member. Irradiation prevents proliferation of donor lymphocytes with a required dose of 25 Gy to the mid plane of the blood container and a minimum of 15 Gy elsewhere. The dosage must not exceed 50 Gy to prevent harm to the patient from irradiation.
Irradiation of blood can result in a decreased survival of red cells and a leakage of potassium from intracellular stores. Because of this, red cell units may only be stored for up to 28 days following irradiation. No reduction in storage time is required for platelets. Because Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP) and Cryoprecipitate do not contain cells, irradiation is not required to prevent TA-GVHD in patients at risk.