Resource implications of adopting a restrictive neonatal blood transfusion policy

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South African Medical Journal

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BACKGROUND: Blood transfusions (BTFs) are not without risk and pose a significant financial burden on resource-limited services. In line with current international evidence, the nursery at Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH), Cape Town, South Africa, introduced a restrictive BTF protocol to minimise transfusions and manage costs. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether adopting a restrictive BTF policy results in fewer transfusions. METHODS: Data were retrospectively collected on all infants who received BTFs in the GSH nursery over a 6-month period following adoption of a restrictive BTF policy in 2010. BTF figures for a similar time period before the restrictive policy, during 2008, were obtained for comparison. RESULTS: After introduction of the restrictive BTF policy, 42 of 1 097 infants admitted (3.8%) received a total of 64 BTFs. In comparison, 102 of a total of 940 infants (10.9%) admitted during a period of the same length before introduction of the restrictive BTF policy received a total of 121 transfusions. Comparison between the number of BTFs administered before and after the restrictive policy showed a highly statistically significant difference (p<0.001). The total cost of the blood products used in the two 6-month periods was R91 870 v. R48 640, based on current prices. CONCLUSIONS: By adopting a restrictive policy, we were able to halve the number of BTFs, reduce risks associated with transfusions, and achieve significant cost benefits. Following evidence-based guidelines results in high standards of care, while also making the most effective use of resources.