Packed red blood cell transfusion is an independent risk factor for necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants

J Perinatol. 2013 Oct;33(10):786-90. doi: 10.1038/jp.2013.60. Epub 2013 May 23.


Objective: To determine whether a temporal association exists between antecedent packed red blood cell (PRBC) transfusions and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in premature infants.

Study design: This case-control study included inborn infants from a single center who developed NEC during a 2-year period. For every NEC infant, two matched controls from the same period were chosen based on gestational age and birth weight. Transfusion-related NEC was defined as antecedent PRBC transfusion within 48 h prior to the onset of any symptoms attributable to NEC. Bivariate analyses were used to compare baseline characteristics of all infants. To determine the raw odds ratio for the presence of exposure (transfusion) versus outcome (NEC), the hospital course (ages 6 to 63 days) of all study infants was divided into 48-h epochs; occurrence of transfusion and NEC was noted within each epoch. Generalized estimating equations were used to estimate the adjusted odds for developing NEC within an epoch with and without antecedent transfusion, controlling chronological age within infant as well as for gestational age, gender, feeding status in prior 48-h epoch and indicators of disease severity.

Result: There were 3652 48-h epochs and 557 transfusions among 49 NEC infants and 97 controls; 17 infants had transfusion-related NEC, yielding a raw odds ratio of 3.01 (P<0.001). The adjusted odds ratios were 2.97 (P=0.003) for transfusion and 2.76 (P=0.05) for feeding status in the prior 48-h epoch. Infants who were being fed in the 48-h period prior to transfusion were more than eight times more likely to develop NEC than infants who were neither fed nor transfused.

Conclusion: Antecedent PRBC transfusion appears to be an independent risk factor for developing NEC during the subsequent 48-h period.

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Neonatal / therapy*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Enteral Nutrition
  • Enterocolitis, Necrotizing / etiology*
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / etiology*
  • Male
  • Risk Factors