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New Study finds that Higher Thresholds of Blood Transfusions for Premature Babies Not Effective in Improving Survival Rates

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – A new study, with RTI International as the Data Coordinating Center, found that higher thresholds of blood transfusions, a common red-cell transfusion procedure, used to treat extremely premature babies is not significantly effective to increase survival rates or prevent brain impairment. Funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the study of 1,824 premature babies conducted in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD Neonatal Research Network showed that neither high nor low thresholds for red-cell hemoglobin transfusions curbed risk of severe clinical complications.

“Unlike previous small trials that suggested a benefit for higher hemoglobin thresholds and observational studies suggesting harm from increased transfusions, our study found no evidence of benefit or harm, thus underscoring the importance of large multicenter randomized trials in this vulnerable population for generating conclusive evidence,” said Abhik Das, PhD, researcher at RTI International and one of the authors of the study.

Of the premature babies randomized to a higher hemoglobin transfusion threshold, approximately 50.1% died or survived with brain impairments compared to similar percentage (49.8%) in the lower hemoglobin transfusion threshold group that died or survived with brain impairments. For those infants that survived, when examined at 22-26 months, the higher and lower hemoglobin transfusion threshold groups had similar rates of neurodevelopmental impairment.

Click here to review the full findings of this study in The New England Journal of Medicine.