Background: Neonatal haemochromatosis is a rare disease of gestation that results in severe fetal liver injury. We hypothesised an alloimmune aetiology for the disorder on the basis of its high recurrence rate in sibships. In this study, we assessed the effectiveness in preventing or changing the severity of recurrent neonatal haemochromatosis of administering during pregnancy high-dose intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) derived from pooled serum of multiple donors.
Methods: Women whose most recent pregnancy ended in documented neonatal haemochromatosis were treated with IVIG, 1 g/kg bodyweight, weekly from the 18th week until the end of gestation in their subsequent pregnancy. The outcomes of treated pregnancies were compared with those of randomly selected previous affected pregnancies for each woman, which were used as historical controls.
Findings: 15 women were treated through 16 pregnancies. All pregnancies progressed uneventfully and resulted in live babies with normal physical examinations and birthweights that were appropriate for gestational age. 12 babies had evidence of liver involvement with neonatal haemochromatosis: 11 had higher than normal concentrations of serum alpha-fetoprotein and ferritin or serum alpha-fetoprotein alone, including four with coagulopathy (international normalised ratio >1.5), and one had coagulopathy alone. All babies survived with medical or no treatment and were healthy at follow-up within the past 6 months. In analysis on a per-mother basis comparing outcomes of treated gestations with those of randomly selected previous affected gestations, gestational IVIG therapy was associated with better infant survival (15 good outcomes vs two in previous pregnancies; p=0.0009).
Interpretation: Treatment with high-dose IVIG during gestation appears to have modified recurrent neonatal haemochromatosis so that it was not lethal to the fetus or neonate. These results further support an alloimmune mechanism for recurrent neonatal haemochromatosis.