Objective: Early decrease in fetal haemoglobin (HbF) is an indicator of loss of endogenous blood components that might have predictive value for development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). The link between HbF and BPD has not been evaluated.
Design: Retrospective observational study.
Setting: Tertiary level neonatal intensive care unit, referral centre for Southern Sweden.
Patients: 452 very preterm infants (<30 gestational weeks) born 2009-2015.
Interventions: Regular clinical practice.
Main outcome measures: Mean HbF, haemoglobin (Hb) and partial oxygen pressure (PaO2) levels calculated from 11 861 arterial blood gas analyses postnatal week 1. Relationship between HbF (%) and BPD (requirement of supplemental oxygen at 36 weeks’ postmenstrual age) and the modifying influence of PaO2 (kPa) and total Hb (g/L) was evaluated.
Results: The mean gestational age (GA) at birth was 26.4 weeks, and 213 (56%) infants developed BPD. A 10% increase in HbF was associated with a decreased prevalence of BPD, OR 0.64 (95% CI 0.49 to 0.83; p<0.001). This association remained when adjusting for mean PaO2 and Hb. Infants with an HbF in the lowest quartile had an OR of 27.1 (95% CI 11.6 to 63.4; p<0.001) for development of BPD as compared with those in the highest quartile. The area under the curve for HbF levels and development of BPD in the full statistical model was 0.871.
Conclusions: Early rapid postnatal decline in HbF levels was associated with development of BPD in very preterm infants. The association between HbF and BPD was not mediated by increased oxygen exposure. The potential benefit of minimising loss of endogenous blood components on BPD outcome will be investigated in a multicentre randomised trial.