Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has the largest number of pediatric sickle cell patients in the country. And our emergency departments treat more kids than anyone else in the nation—more than 200,000 a year. What do these patients have in common other than keeping us busy? Our sickle cell and emergency/trauma patients are the most in need of receiving blood out of all the children we care for.
With that in mind, our providers developed special ways to help make sure our young patients get the blood they need, when they need it. It’s a lot to keep up with, considering that Children’s providers transfused more than 33,000 blood products to pediatric patients at our Egleston and Scottish Rite hospitals in 2012.
Preventing immunity to blood in children
Sickle cell patients can require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lives. We try to prevent our sickle cell patients from developing antibodies, or immunity, to foreign blood. When antibodies are present, it can be difficult to find donated blood that the body won’t reject. To help prevent patients from developing antibodies, we do advanced testing of the blood, or blood matching.
Preparing blood products for emergencies based on a child’s weight
In trauma/emergency situations, the patient’s condition is often life threatening or may result in permanent injury if not treated promptly and correctly.
The doctors in our blood bank work with our emergency doctors to follow a pediatric massive transfusion protocol (MTP) when an injury means the patient needs large or “massive” amounts of blood. For children, that is a lot less blood than an adult could tolerate. In an MTP, providers strive to provide blood that has consistent ratios of red blood cells, platelets and other contents. To achieve the ratios, our team creates “packages” of blood based on the patient’s weight.
While this approach is common at adult hospitals, it’s more rare at pediatric facilities, and we were among the first to do it. So, hospitals across the country have considered our MTP approach a template for how they operate.
Did you know?
- After someone donates blood, the American Red Cross performs laboratory tests for multiple infectious diseases on every unit. Once it’s provided to Children’s, we sometimes run additional tests, such as for the blood given to sickle cell patients.
- One pint of blood can save up to three adults or a dozen pediatric patients because we split the big adult units into smaller units so we can help more patients.
- Providers diagnose more than one million new people with cancer each year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.