Background: During pregnancy, maternal red blood cell (RBC) antibodies can lead to life-threatening fetal hemolysis and anemia. Women can become immunized by a pregnancy or an unmatched transfusion. Our aim was to quantify the effect of a nationwide K-matched transfusion policy for women of childbearing age potential to prevent K-immunization in pregnancy.
Study Design and Methods: In this nation-wide policy change evaluation study we determined the occurrence of RBC antibodies before and after introduction of a K-matched transfusion policy and evaluated the cause K alloimmunization 10 years after introduction of this measure. K-matched transfusion for females under 45 years of age is advised in the Dutch transfusion guideline since 2004. We used laboratory data from pregnancies with RBC antibodies identified in the period 1999-2018 obtained as part of a population-based screening program in the Netherlands.
Results: Tests of 36 286 pregnancies produced a positive antibody screening result which concerned anti-K in 1550 pregnancies. The occurrence of anti-K decreased from 67.9 to 20.2 per 100 000 pregnancies. The relative risk reduction was 0.70 which largely exceeded the relative risk reduction of 0.27 for antibodies against RBC antigens for which no preventive matching is required. The number of pregnancies at risk for anti-K-mediated disease decreased from 9.7 to 4.2 per 100 000 pregnancies.
Conclusions: A K-matched transfusion policy is associated with a major decrease in a number of pregnant women with anti-K and pregnancies at risk for anti-K-mediated disease. A relatively simple measure is now shown to impact prevention of hemolytic disease in the fetus and newborn.