Background: Although preterm infants often require transfusions of red blood cells for anemia of prematurity, the optimal volume of blood to be transfused has not been established.
Observations: Infants with birth weights between 500 and 1,500 g were randomly assigned to receive 10 or 20 mL/kg red blood cells. Infants with transfusions of 20 mL/kg had a greater hemoglobin (14.2 +/- 1.9 vs. 12.0 +/- 1.9 g/dL, P = 0. 003) and hematocrit (41.2 +/- 5.9 vs. 32.3 +/- 7.1%, P = 0.001) levels after transfusion compared with those who received transfusions of 10 mL/kg. There were no measured differences in pulmonary function in either group after transfusion.
Conclusions: Transfusion with 20 mL/kg red blood cells produces a significantly greater increase in hemoglobin and hematocrit levels than does a transfusion with 10 mL/kg, without any detrimental effects on pulmonary function.