Reticulocyte Hemoglobin Content During the First Month of Life in Critically Ill Very Low Birth Weight Neonates Differs From Term Infants, Children, and Adults

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Reticulocyte hemoglobin content (RET-He)—an established indicator of iron status in children and adults—was determined in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants.


Longitudinal retrospective RET-He data in 26 VLBW neonates during the first month of age were compared with: (a) concurrent complete blood counts (CBCs), including hemoglobin (Hb) concentration, reticulocyte count, and immature reticulocyte fraction (IRF), and erythropoietin (EPO) levels; (b) clinical variables; and (c) RET-He data from the literature for term infants, children, and adults.


RET-He within 24 hr following birth was 31.8 ± 1.1 pg (mean ± SEM). This was followed by an abrupt, significant decline to 28.3 ± 1.1 pg at 2–4 days, and to steady state levels of 28.4 ± 0.5 pg thereafter. The changes in RET-He were mirrored by changes in plasma EPO, reticulocyte count, and IRF, but not Hb. Steady state RET-He values after 4 days were significantly lower than RET-He values for term infants, children, and adults (31.6 ± 0.11, 32.0 ± 0.12, and 33.0 ± 0.13 pg, respectively).


Although RET-He values in VLBW infant were lower than term infants, children, and adults, the significance and mechanism(s) responsible are unknown. The present VLBW infant data are relevant to investigations assessing hemoglobinization following treatment with recombinant human EPO (r-HuEPO) and/or iron.

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