BACKGROUND: Hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn (HDFN) is a severe disease, resulting from maternal red cell (RBC) alloantibodies directed against fetal RBCs. The effect of a first-trimester antibody screening program on the timely detection of HDFN caused by antibodies other than anti-D was evaluated.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Nationwide, all women (1,002 in 305,000 consecutive pregnancies during 18 months) with alloantibodies other than anti-D, detected by a first-trimester antibody screen, were included in a prospective index-cohort study. In a parallel-coverage validation study, patients with HDFN caused by antibodies other than anti-D, that were missed by the screening program, were retrospectively identified.
RESULTS: The prevalence of positive antibody screens at first-trimester screening was 1,232 in 100,000; the prevalence of alloantibodies other than anti-D was 328 in 100,000, of which 191 of 100,000 implied a risk for occurrence of HDFN because the father carried the antigen. Overall, severe HDFN, requiring intrauterine or postnatal (exchange) transfusions, occurred in 3.7 percent of fetuses at risk: for anti-K in 11.6 percent; anti-c in 8.5 percent; anti-E in 1.1 percent; Rh antibodies other than anti-c, anti-D, or anti-E in 3.8 percent; and for antibodies other than Rh antibodies or anti-K, in none of the fetuses at risk. All affected children, where antibodies were detected, were promptly treated and healthy at the age of 1 year. The coverage validation study showed a sensitivity of the screening program of 75 percent. Five of 8 missed cases were caused by anti-c, with delay-induced permanent damage in at least 1.
CONCLUSION: First-trimester screening enables timely treatment of HDFN caused by antibodies other than anti-D, however, with a sensitivity of only 75 percent. A second screening at Week 30 of c– women will enhance the screening program. Severe HDFN, caused by antibodies other than anti-D, is associated with anti-K, anti-c, and to a lesser extent with other Rh-alloantibodies.