Repeated red blood cell (RBC) transfusions in preterm neonates are associated with poor outcome and increased risk for prematurity-associated diseases. RBC transfusions cause the progressive replacement of fetal haemoglobin (HbF) by adult haemoglobin (HbA). We monitored HbF levels in 25 preterm neonates until 36 weeks of post-menstrual age (PMA); patients received RBC units from allogeneic cord blood (cord-RBCs) or from adult donors (adult-RBCs), depending on whether cord-RBCs were available. Primary outcome was HbF level at PMA of 32 weeks. Twenty-three neonates survived until this age: 14 received no transfusions, two only cord-RBCs, three only adult-RBCs and four both RBC types. HbF levels in neonates transfused with cord-RBCs were significantly higher than in neonates receiving adult-RBCs (P < 0·0001) or both RBC types (P < 0·0001). Superimposable results were obtained at PMA of 36 weeks. Every adult-RBCs transfusion increased the risk for an HbF in the lowest quartile by about 10-fold, whereas this effect was not evident if combined adult- and cord-RBCs were evaluated. Overall, these data show that transfusing cord-RBCs can limit the HbF depletion caused by conventional RBC transfusions. Transfusing cord blood warrants investigation in randomised trials as a strategy to mitigate the severity of retinopathy of prematurity (NCT03764813).
- fetal haemoglobin
- preterm birth