Background: Chronic red blood cell transfusion is the first-line treatment for severe forms of thalassaemia. This therapy is, however, hampered by a number of adverse effects, including red blood cell alloimmunisation. The aim of this systematic review was to collect the current literature data on erythrocyte alloimmunisation.
Materials and methods: We performed a systematic search of the literature which identified 41 cohort studies involving 9,256 patients.
Results: The prevalence of erythrocyte alloimmunisation was 11.4% (95% CI: 9.3-13.9%) with a higher rate of alloimmunisation against antigens of the Rh (52.4%) and Kell (25.6%) systems. Overall, alloantibodies against antigens belonging to the Rh and Kell systems accounted for 78% of the cases. A higher prevalence of red blood cell alloimmunisation was found in patients with thalassaemia intermedia compared to that among patients with thalassaemia major (15.5 vs 12.8%).
Discussion: Matching transfusion-dependent thalassaemia patients and red blood cell units for Rh and Kell antigens should be able to reduce the risk of red blood cell alloimmunisation by about 80%.