Polycythemia in the newborn: Do asymptomatic babies need exchange transfusion?

Singh, M. ; Singhal, P. K. ; Paul, V. K. ; Deorari, A. K. ; Sundaram, K. R. (1990) Polycythemia in the newborn: Do asymptomatic babies need exchange transfusion? Indian Pediatrics, 27 (1). pp. 61-65. ISSN 0019-6061

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Official URL: http://www.indianpediatrics.net/1990/jan1990.htm


A total of 2288 infants were screened for hematocrit over a period of 15 months. Polycythemia was diagnosed in 27 cases (1.2%). Preterm and term babies had more or less equal risk to develop polycythemia (1.5% and 1.1% respectively) while postterm infants had at least three times increased risk (3.4%) when compared to their term counterparts. Large-for-dates (LFDs) and small-for-dates (SFDs) infants had increased risk of manifesting polycythemia which was nearly four times (2.2%) and twenty-five times (13.2%) respectively, as compared to appropriate-for-dates (AFDs) babies (0.5%). About one-third of polycythemic infants had one or more symptoms. The most common symptoms observed was jitteriness (25.9%) followed by respiratory distress (14.8%) and lethargy (11.1%). The mean (+/- SD) hematocrit of symptomatic newborns (76.0 +/- 4.04) was found to be significantly higher (p less than 0.001) as compared to asymptomatic babies (70.84 +/- 2.73). Partial exchange transfusion with plasma was performed in all the symptomatic cases within 8 hours of onset of symptoms. No such intervention was performed in asymptomatic cases. On neurodevelopment follow-up, the development indices (MDI and PDI) of both asymptomatic and symptomatic cases were found to be comparable.

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