Blood transfusion for anaemia of prematurity: Current practice in Australia and New Zealand

J Paediatr Child Health. 2019 Apr;55(4):433-440. doi: 10.1111/jpc.14222. Epub 2018 Sep 23.


Aim: To characterise the current transfusion practice among clinicians in Australasian neonatal units and factors that influence their decision-making.

Methods: Members of the Australia and New Zealand Neonatal Network (ANZNN) and practitioners at their local institutions were invited to participate in a 15-question web-based survey between 1 June and 31 July 2016. The survey was designed to assess (i) haemoglobin-based transfusion thresholds; (ii) presence of local guidelines; (iii) preference for a restrictive or liberal transfusion policy; (iv) perceived benefits and risks of transfusion; and (v) use of clinical adjuncts to assist decision-making.

Results: Overall, 130 participants responded to at least one question. Haemoglobin transfusion thresholds for anaemia of prematurity (AOP) varied significantly from <60 to <120 g/L. Of 103 participants, 36 (35%) reported that they do not have access to local transfusion guidelines. The majority utilise multiple clinical and haematological parameters to guide their decision-making, and approximately half (45/84, 54%) believe that tissue hypoxia detected by near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) may better inform transfusion thresholds. Of 102 participants, 51 (50%) support a restrictive rather than liberal transfusion policy. The most commonly reported perceived risks of transfusion for AOP were suppression of endogenous erythropoiesis and increased rates of necrotising enterocolitis.

Conclusions: There is a significant variation in transfusion practice in Australasian neonatal units. Quality and safety initiatives may assist with improved consistency of transfusion practice across the ANZNN. However, further research is required to better define optimal transfusion thresholds, quantify potential risks of transfusion and determine clinical utility of newer adjuncts such as NIRS.

Keywords: anaemia of prematurity; survey; transfusion practice.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Neonatal / diagnosis
  • Anemia, Neonatal / therapy*
  • Australia
  • Blood Transfusion / methods*
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Cohort Studies
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / adverse effects
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Patient Selection
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Treatment Outcome