A cross-sectional study of peripartum blood transfusion in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

S Afr Med J. 2016 Nov 2;106(11):1103-1109. doi: 10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i11.10870.


Background: Obstetric haemorrhage (OH) remains a major contributor to maternal morbidity and mortality. Blood transfusion is critical in OH management; yet, data on peripartum transfusion are lacking. A pilot study reported high rates of peripartum transfusion in a sample of South African (SA) hospitals, which was independently associated with HIV status.

Objectives: To assess the incidence of peripartum transfusion in a sample of Eastern Cape, SA hospitals to evaluate generalisability of preceding study findings.

Methods: Hospital chart reviews were conducted of all deliveries at three large regional hospitals from February to June 2013. Additional clinical data were collected for patients who sustained OH and/or were transfused.

Results: A total of 7 234 women were enrolled in the study; 1 988 (27.5%) were HIV-positive. Of the 767 HIV-positive women with a CD4 count <350 cells/μL, 86.0% were on full antiretroviral therapy and 9.9% received drugs for prevention of mother-to-child transmission. The overall transfusion rate was 3.2%, with significant variability by hospital: Frere Hospital (1.5%), Dora Nginza Hospital (3.8%) and Cecilia Makiwane Hospital (4.6%). The number of red blood cell units per transfused patient and per delivery varied significantly by hospital. Bivariate analysis showed significant association between transfusion and HIV status. In a multivariate analysis, controlling for OH, age, mode of delivery, gestational age, parity and birthweight, this association (odds ratio 1.45; 95% confidence interval 0.78 - 2.71) was no longer significant.

Conclusion: These findings confirm high rates of peripartum transfusion in SA. While this can be possibly ascribed to variability in practice and patient profile, variation in care and improvement in HIV treatment should be considered.