Background Neonates, particularly if born preterm or with congenital anomalies, are among the pediatric patients most likely to need blood transfusion. However, they are also particularly vulnerable to adverse consequences of blood transfusion. Aiming to clamp the umbilical cord for at least a minute after birth is a simple safe procedure that is being increasingly adopted worldwide, although may be associated with increased rates of polycythemia and jaundice. It may also reduce the proportion of preterm babies who need a blood transfusion. The mechanisms for this are not fully understood. Potential mechanisms could include an increased volume of blood transfusion from the placenta to the baby after birth, and an overall reduction in the severity of illness in the first weeks after birth, which could lead to fewer blood tests and greater tolerance of anemia, or enhanced erythropoiesis. Objectives To investigate the mechanism behind the reduced need for blood transfusions after deferral of cord clamping. Methodology This protocol outlines the methods and data analysis plan for a study using nested retrospective data from a large randomized trial combined with additional data collected from patient medical and pathology records. The additional data items to be collected all relate to the receipt of transfusion and the factors that affect the risk for transfusion in preterm babies. The analysis will include all randomized babies from Australia and New Zealand for whom data are available. Causal mediation analysis is planned to estimate the effects of mediators on the relationship between the timing of cord clamping and the need for blood transfusion. The analysis is designed to discern whether initial severity of illness or the magnitude of placental transfusion mediates red blood cell transfusion dependence. Anticipated outcomes and dissemination We expect the study will identify potential strategies for reducing blood transfusions and associated negative outcomes in preterm infants. This will be relevant to researchers, clinicians, and parents. The results will be disseminated through publications, presentations, and inclusion in evidence-based guidelines.
Keywords: delayed cord clamping; immediate cord clamping; mediation analysis; neonatal; newborn blood transfusion.
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