Characteristics and incidence of transfusion-associated necrotizing enterocolitis in the UK

Christopher M Faraday (Lead Author), Sheima Hamad, Kelsey D Jones, Kathleen Sim, Shobha Cherian, Anitha James, Helen V New, Sunit Godambe, J Simon Kroll, Paul Clarke

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The etiology of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is unclear and postulated as being multifactorial. It has been suggested that one causative factor is the transfusion of packed red blood cells (PRBCs) leading to the disease entity commonly referred to as transfusion-associated NEC (TANEC). TANEC has been reported in North America but its incidence has not been formally investigated in the UK. Our aims were to identify the incidence of NEC and TANEC in tertiary-level UK neonatal units and to describe characteristics of TANEC cases.
Using strict case definitions for NEC and TANEC, we undertook a retrospective review to estimate the incidence of TANEC cases occurring in four UK tertiary-level centers during a 38-month period.
Of 8007 consecutive neonatal admissions of all gestations to the four centers, 68 babies went on to develop NEC and all affected infants were of very low birth weight (VLBW); 34 of these had previously received a transfusion of PRBCs but did not fit the diagnostic criteria for TANEC, whereas 15 (22%) of the 68 babies with NEC qualified as TANEC cases. UK cases occurred at an earlier postnatal age than cases reported in multiple large North American series and were of a lower birth weight.
We have confirmed the presence of TANEC in the UK VLBW neonatal population. Its incidence lies within the wide range described in previous reports of this phenomenon globally, though with some local variation in characteristics. Further work is needed to clarify causation, pathophysiology, and possible mechanisms of prevention of TANEC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-403
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine
Issue number3
Early online date26 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Necrotizing
  • blood transfusion
  • very low birth weight
  • premature

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