Objectives: Infants of </=1250 g birth weight receive multiple erythrocyte transfusions during their hospitalization. We hypothesized that early erythropoietin (Epo) and iron therapy would 1) decrease the number of transfusions received (infants 401-1000 g birth weight; trial 1) and 2) decrease the percentage of infants who received any transfusions (1001-1250 g birth weight; trial 2).
Methods: A total of 172 infants in trial 1 and 118 infants in trial 2 were randomized to treatment (Epo, 400 U/kg 3 times weekly) or placebo/control. Therapy was initiated by 4 days after birth and continued through the 35th postmenstrual week. All infants received supplemental parenteral and enteral iron. Complete blood and reticulocyte counts were measured weekly, and ferritin concentrations were measured monthly. Transfusions were administered according to protocol. Phlebotomy losses and transfusion data were recorded.
Results: Treated and placebo/control infants in trial 1 received a similar number of transfusions (4.3 +/- 3.6 vs 5.2 +/- 4.2, respectively). A similar percentage of treated and control infants in trial 2 received at least 1 transfusion (37% vs 46%). Reticulocyte counts were higher in treated infants during each week of the study in both trials. Hematocrits were higher among treated infants from week 2 on in both trials. Ferritin concentrations were higher in placebo/controls than in treated infants at weeks 4 and 8 in trial 1 and at week 4 in trial 2. No adverse effects of Epo or supplemental iron occurred.
Conclusion: The combination of early Epo and iron as administered in this study stimulated erythropoiesis in infants who were </=1250 g at birth. However, the lack of impact on transfusion requirements fails to support routine use of early Epo.neonate, intravenous iron, donor exposure.