Exchange blood transfusion for hyperbilirubinaemia: Neonatal characteristics and short-term outcomes

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K Seake
S Velaphi


Background. Factors that have been associated with severe hyperbilirubinaemia requiring exchange blood transfusion (EBT) are early discharge, late preterm birth and haemolytic disease. Early discharge is a common practice in neonatal care, so it is important to identify and audit neonates who received EBT, in order to identify modifiable factors. 

Objectives. To describe the characteristics and outcomes of infants requiring EBT. 

Methods. We reviewed records of infants admitted with severe jaundice requiring EBT from January 2009 to December 2013. Descriptive analysis of characteristics, clinical presentation, laboratory findings and outcome at discharge was performed. 

Results. A total of 150 neonates received EBT (30 per year), and 101 were reviewed. Of these, 34 (33.7%) were inpatients and 67 (66.3%) were new admissions (2.34/1 000 new admissions). The majority of neonates requiring EBT were born vaginally (86.1%), were late preterm births (20.8%) and were exclusively breastfed (82.2%). The median postnatal age at presentation was 5 days. Clinical signs suggestive of acute bilirubin encephalopathy were present in 24.8% of cases. Among mother-infant pairs with known blood groups, 9.3% and 70.4% had rhesus (Rh) and ABO incompatibility, respectively. A Coombs test was positive in 62.5% of those with Rh incompatibility compared with 31.7% of those with ABO incompatibility. A total of 6 patients (5.9%) died, all within 7 days of EBT, but none during EBT. 

Conclusion. The majority of neonates requiring EBT presented post discharge after birth and had been born vaginally at term, suggesting early discharge after delivery. More than two-thirds of cases were related to ABO incompatibility. Screening for jaundice before discharge must be prioritised, especially for infants born to mothers who are Rh negative or ABO blood group O. 

Article Details

How to Cite
Exchange blood transfusion for hyperbilirubinaemia: Neonatal characteristics and short-term outcomes. (2022). South African Journal of Child Health, 16(4), 209-214.

How to Cite

Exchange blood transfusion for hyperbilirubinaemia: Neonatal characteristics and short-term outcomes. (2022). South African Journal of Child Health, 16(4), 209-214.


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