A randomized trial of erythrocyte transfusion vs no transfusion was performed in 16 preterm infants 1 to 3 months old with hematocrits of less than or equal to 0.29 L/L. To determine which (if any) such patients definitely benefit from transfusion, an analysis of outcome variables was performed. Factors that prospectively identified patients who would benefit from transfusions included a
heart rate of greater than 152 beats per minute (P less than .01), apnea/bradycardia (heart rate less than 90/min) requiring intervention to increase the heart rate (P less than .01), and a blood lactate level above the reference range (P less than .02). Additional investigations were performed to determine the cause of the low hematocrits in the study patients. All had diminished, rather than accelerated, erythropoiesis. However, neither the anemia of chronic disorders nor iron deficiency anemia contributed to the diminished erythropoiesis. In all cases, serum erythropoietin levels were below the predicted range (P less than .001). Thus, at least some preterm infants aged 1 to 3 months with hematocrits less than or equal to 0.29 L/L definitely derive benefit from erythrocyte transfusion. The presence of tachycardia, apnea/bradycardia, or an elevated blood lactate may prospectively identify such patients.