Deadly dilemma

Published: Monday 30 November 1992

-- DOCTORS in Africa are debating whether severely anaemic children should be given blood transfusions because of the risk of their getting AIDS-infected blood.

Researchers, however, have found ways to reduce the frequency of transfusions by 55 per cent without increasing mortality (The Lancet, Vol 340 No 8818). Severely anaemic children (with haemoglobin counts of less than 3.9 g/dl) administered transfusions within two days of admission into hospital had a lower mortality rate. Transfusions given to patients with haemoglobin counts equal to or more than 3.9 g/dl did not improve mortality and could increase the risk of death through AIDS. Children with haemoglobin counts of less than 4.7 g/dl and respiratory problems, who were given blood transfusions, also had lower fatality rates than those who were not.

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