Objective Blood cell populations, including red blood cells (RBC) unique to the extremely preterm (EPT) infant, are potentially lost due to frequent clinical blood sampling during neonatal intensive care. Currently, neonatal RBC population heterogeneity is not described by measurement of total haemoglobin or haematocrit. We therefore aimed to describe a subpopulation of large RBCs with hyper high haemoglobin content, >49 pg (Hyper-He) following EPT birth.
Design Prospective observational cohort study.
Setting Two Swedish study centres.
Participants Infants (n=62) born between gestational weeks 22+0 to 26+6.
Methods Prospective data (n=280) were collected from March 2020 to September 2022 as part of an ongoing randomised controlled trial. Blood was sampled from the umbilical cord, at postnatal day 1–14, 1 month, 40 weeks’ postmenstrual age and at 3 months’ corrected age.
Results At birth, there was a considerable inter-individual variation; Hyper-He ranging from 1.5% to 24.9% (median 7.0%). An inverse association with birth weight and gestational age was observed; Spearman’s rho (CI) −0.38 (−0.63 to −0.07) and −0.39 (−0.65 to −0.05), respectively. Overall, Hyper-He rapidly decreased, only 0.6%–5.0% (median 2.2%) remaining 2 weeks postnatally. Adult levels (Conclusion Our results point to gestational age and birth weight-dependent properties of the RBC population. Future work needs to verify results by different measurement techniques and elucidate the potential role of differing properties between endogenous and transfused RBCs in relation to neonatal morbidities during this important time frame of child development.
Trial registration number NCT04239690.