Frequent blood transfusions may produce changes in iron status which can give rise to oxygen-derived free-radical (ODFR) generation and oxidative injury. Preterm infants developing chronic lung disease (CLD) receive significantly more transfusions. A total of 73 very preterm infants had weekly estimations of serum iron, transferrin, transferrin saturation, ferritin, caeruloplasmin, bleomycin detectable ('free') iron (BDI), and thiobarbituric acid reacting substances (TBARS) made over the first 28 days. Thirty infants remained oxygen dependent at 36 weeks postmenstrual age and were termed as having CLD. They were significantly lighter and less mature at birth and received more than twice as many transfusions during the 1st month. They had significantly lower transferrin levels initially but similar total iron and transferrin saturations as non-CLD infants. Ferritin and caeruloplasmin levels rose to significantly higher levels over the 1st month in CLD infants, and ferritin levels were significantly related to the number of transfusions given. Infants with higher ferritin levels were more likely to show BDI, although this was not associated with increased lipid peroxidation as evidenced by higher TBARS.
Conclusion: It is unlikely that oxidative injury from ODFRs induced by blood transfusion contributes to the risk of developing CLD in preterm infants.