Background and Objective: Very low birthweight infants (<1,500 g birthweight) often develop significant anemia that requires multiple blood transfusions, which carry a significant risk. Erythropoietin therapy is known to reduce the need for blood transfusions in preterm VLBW(1) infants. Analysis of cost had been reported in prospective studies with conflicting results. No studies comparing the cost-effectiveness of EPO(2) have been reported during routine use in preterm VLBW infants.
Methods: We compared the cost of treating anemia of prematurity in two consecutive 12-month periods: before and after the introduction of EPO therapy in our unit. The cost of blood bank charges as well as disposable items and the cost of EPO were compared.
Results: A significantly smaller number of infants required blood transfusions in the EPO group (2 of 25 vs. 9/21 before EPO was introduced). The cost of therapy for anemia of prematurity was significantly smaller in the EPO group (128±168 US$ per infant vs. 151±189 US$ per infant before the introduction of EPO).
Conclusion: We conclude that EPO is an efficient and cost-effective alternative to blood transfusions in VLBW infants.
(1) VLBW = very low birthweight
(2) EPO = erythropoietin