Practice Bulletin No. 181: Prevention of Rh D Alloimmunization

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Abstract

Advances in the prevention and treatment of Rh D alloimmunization have been one of the great success stories of modern obstetrics. There is wide variation in prevalence rates of Rh D-negative individuals between regions, for example from 5% in India to 15% in North America (1). However, high birth rates in low prevalence areas means Rh hemolytic disease of the newborn is still an important cause of morbidity and mortality in countries without prophylaxis programs (1). In such countries, 14% of affected fetuses are stillborn and one half of live born infants suffer neonatal death or brain injury (1). The routine use of Rh D immune globulin is responsible for the reduced rate of red cell alloimmunization in more economically developed countries. First introduced in the 1970s, the postpartum administration of Rh D immune globulin reduced the rate of alloimmunization in at-risk pregnancies from approximately 13–16% to approximately 0.5–1.8% (2, 3). The risk was further reduced to 0.14–0.2% with the addition of routine antepartum administration (2, 3). Despite considerable proof of efficacy, there are still a large number of cases of Rh D alloimmunization because of failure to follow established protocols. In addition, there are new data to help guide management, especially with regard to weak D phenotype women. The purpose of this document is to provide evidence-based guidance for the management of patients at risk of Rh D alloimmunization.

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