OBJECTIVE To examine the number and volume of red blood cell transfusions (RBCTs) in very and extremely low birthweight infants under restrictive red blood cell transfusion guidelines without erythropoietin administration, and to compare the results with those reported in similar infants receiving erythropoietin.
METHODS From April 1996 to June 1999, all RBCTs given to infants with a birth weight of less than 1500 g were prospectively recorded. Data on RBCT combined with erythropoietin treatment and RBCT guidelines were extracted from four prospective randomised trials of erythropoietin for anaemia of prematurity.
RESULTS When the restrictive RBCT guidelines were followed, the number of RBCTs and volume transfused were similar to those reported during erythropoietin administration.
CONCLUSIONS RBCT guidelines may have a similar impact on RBCT in very low birthweight infants to the administration of erythropoietin. The effect of RBCT guidelines on RBCT frequency should be considered when evaluating the efficacy of erythropoietin administration to preterm infants.
Indications for RBCT in preterm infants are controversial
RBCT to very low birthweight infants can be reduced to the rate reported during erythropoietin administration if restrictive transfusion guidelines are applied
When evaluating trials of erythropoietin administration to reduce RBCT in preterm infants, the effect of the transfusion guidelines applied during these studies should be taken into account
Trials on RBCT and erythropoietin administration should focus on long term neurodevelopmental outcome
- red blood cell
- packed cell volume
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