Red Blood Cell Alloimmunization in Pregnancy
Red blood cell (RBC) alloimmunization in pregnancy continues to occur despite the widespread use of both antenatal and postpartum Rhesus immune globulin (RhIG), due mainly to inadvertent omissions in administration as well as antenatal sensitization prior to RhIG given at 28 weeks' gestation. Additional instances are attributable to the lack of immune globulins to other RBC antigens. Evaluation of the alloimmunized pregnancy begins with the maternal titer. Once a critical value [32 for anti-Rh(D) and other irregular antibodies; 8 for anti-K and -k] is reached, fetal surveillance using serial Doppler ultrasound measurements of the peak velocity in the fetal middle cerebral artery (MCA) is standard. In the case of a heterozygous paternal phenotype, amniocentesis can be performed to detect the antigen-negative fetus that requires no further evaluation. MCA velocities greater than 1.5 multiples of the median necessitate cordocentesis, and if fetal anemia is detected, intrauterine transfusion therapy is initiated. A perinatal survival of greater than 85% with normal neurologic outcome is now expected. Future therapies will target specific immune manipulations in the pregnant patient.
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