Longitudinal evaluation of severely anemic children in Kenya: the effect of transfusion on mortality and hematologic recovery

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To determine the effect of transfusion on hematologic recovery and mortality among severely anemic children during and after hospitalization in rural Kenya.


Prospective cohort.


We collected clinical and laboratory information on all severely anemic children (hemoglobin < 5.0 g/dl) and a 33% sample of children with hemoglobin ≥ 5.0 g/dl who were admitted to the pediatric ward of a rural Kenyan hospital during a 6 month study period. Children were followed during hospitalization and at 4 and 8 weeks after admission.


Overall, 303 (25%) of the 1223 hospitalized children had hemoglobin < 5.0 g/dl, 30% of whom died during the study period. Severely anemic children who were transfused had a higher mean hemoglobin level at discharge (9.0 g/dl) than non-transfused children (5.8 g/dl, P < 0.001) and maintained a higher mean hemoglobin during the 8-week follow-up period. However, the presence of malaria parasitemia on follow-up negated the benefit of transfusion on hematologic recovery at both 4- and 8-week visits (longitudinal linear model, least square means, P > 0.05). Transfusion was associated with improved survival among children with respiratory distress who received transfusions within the first 2 days of hospitalization.


The use of transfusion can be improved by targeting use of blood to severely anemic children with cardiorespiratory compromise, improving immediate availability of blood, and treating severely anemic children with effective antimalarial therapy.

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