Object. This study was undertaken to determine the efficacy of preoperative erythropoietin administration in infants scheduled for craniofacial surgery and, in so doing, to minimize problems associated with blood transfusions.
Methods. Families were offered the option of having their children receive erythropoietin injections before undergoing craniofacial surgery. The children whose families accepted this option received daily iron and 300 U/kg erythropoietin three times per week for 3 weeks preoperatively. Weekly complete blood counts with reticulocyte counts were measured and transfusion requirements were noted. Blood transfusions were administered depending on the clinical condition of the child. A case-matched control population was also evaluated to compare initial hematocrit levels and transfusion requirements. Thirty patients in the erythropoietin treatment group and 30 control patients were evaluated. The dose of erythropoietin administered was shown to increase hematocrit levels from 35.4 ± 0.9% to 43.3 ± 0.9% during the course of therapy. The resulting hematocrit levels in patients treated with erythropoietin at the time of surgery were higher compared with baseline hematocrit levels obtained in control patients at the time of surgery (34.2 ± 0.5%). Transfusion requirements also differed: all control patients received transfusions, whereas 64% (19 of 30) of erythropoietin-treated patients received transfusions.
Conclusions. The authors conclude that treatment with erythropoietin in otherwise healthy young children will increase hematocrit levels and modify transfusion requirements. Erythropoietin therapy for elective surgery in children of this age must be individualized according to the clinical situation, family and physician beliefs, and cost effectiveness, as evaluated at the individual center.