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Maria Saito-Benz, MSc; Karen Bennington, MSc; Clint L. Gray, PhD; William G. Murphy, MD; Peter Flanagan, BMBS; Frederica Steiner, MBChB; Greg Atkinson, PhD; Mary J. Berry, PhD Effects of Freshly Irradiated vs Irradiated and Stored Red Blood Cell Transfusion on Cerebral Oxygenation in Preterm Infants A Randomized Clinical Trial. Mar 2022. Jama Pediatrics

IMPORTANCE Gamma irradiation of leukoreduced red blood cells (RBCs) prevents transfusion-associated graft-vs-host disease but also exacerbates storage lesion formation in RBCs. It is unknown whether freshly irradiated RBCs are more efficacious than irradiated and stored RBCs in preterm infants with high transfusion requirements.

 OBJECTIVE To examine whether transfusion of freshly irradiated vs irradiated and stored RBC components improves cerebral oxygen delivery in preterm infants with anemia.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS This single-center, double-blinded, proof-of-concept randomized clinical trial was conducted at the neonatal intensive care unit ofWellington Regional Hospital inWellington, New Zealand, between December 1, 2017, and November 30, 2018. Participants were preterm infants  (<34 weeks’ gestation at birth) who were at least 14 days of age and had

anemia. Participants underwent nonurgent transfusions, and these episodes were randomized to the intervention group (in which the infants received a transfusion of RBCs that were freshly irradiated on the day of transfusion) or control group (in which the infants received a transfusion of RBCs that were irradiated and stored for up to 14 days). Data were analyzed using the evaluable population approach.

INTERVENTION Transfusion of freshly irradiated RBCs.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES The prespecified primary outcomewas the change in cerebral regional oxygen saturation (crSO2) from baseline (immediately before) to immediately after the transfusion. The prespecified secondary outcomes were the change in cerebral fractional tissue oxygen extraction (cFTOE) at different time points (immediately after, 24 hours after, and 120 hours or 5 days after transfusion). Outcomes were measured by blinded clinicians using near-infrared spectroscopy. A covariate-adjusted linear mixed model was used to quantify mean treatment effects and account for multiple transfusions in some infants.

RESULTS A total of 42 infants (mean [SD] gestational age, 26 [10] weeks and 3 days; 29 [69%] boys) were enrolled in the trial and underwent 64 transfusion episodes, which were randomized to the intervention (n = 31) or control (n = 33) group. Compared with infants in the control group, those in the intervention group showed a covariate-adjusted mean increase in crSO2 (2.0 percentage points; 95%CI, 1.2-2.8 percentage points) and a mean decrease in cFTOE (0.02; 95%CI, 0.01-0.04) immediately after transfusion. These differences were sustained up to 120 hours or 5 days after transfusion. There were negligible mean changes in crSO2 or cFTOE in infants in the control group at any of the follow-up time points.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Results of this trial showed that transfusion of freshly irradiated RBCs conferred a small advantage in cerebral oxygenation for at least 5 days after transfusion compared with transfusion of irradiated and stored RBC components. On-demand irradiation of RBC components may be considered to optimize oxygen delivery in the recipient, but this physiological finding requires further research.

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