Background: Hepcidin, a key regulatory peptide hormone in iron homeostasis, may in future serve as a non-invasive iron status parameter for monitoring iron supplementation in preterm infants. For this, coexisting influencing factors should be taken into account. Objectives: To evaluate the short-term effects of red blood cell (RBC) transfusions on hepcidin concentrations in serum (HepS) and urine (HepU) of preterm infants. Methods: This was a prospective, observational study conducted between May 2009 and September 2010 at a single neonatal unit (Tübingen University Hospital, Tübingen, Germany) in very preterm infants, i.e. with a gestational age (GA) of <32 weeks, who received clinically indicated RBC transfusions. The concentration of the mature, 25 amino-acid form of hepcidin was determined in serum und urine by competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay together with cellular indices before and after transfusion. Results: Twenty preterm infants born at a median GA of 26 + 0/7 (interquartile range: 24 + 6/7 to 27 + 3/7) weeks received 27 RBC transfusions at a median corrected age of 31 + 3/7 (29 + 6/7 to 34 + 5/7) weeks. When measured shortly after transfusion (mean time: 10 h), haematocrit values increased from a mean of 26.6% (SD 2.8) to 40.9% (SD 3.2); p < 0.0001. HepS also increased [geometric mean: 44.3 (95% confidence interval 30.8-63.8) ng/ml vs. 58.0 (35.7-94.3) ng/ml; p < 0.05] but HepU remained unaffected. Conclusion: The data indicate that HepS concentrations increase shortly after RBC transfusion in preterm infants. Long-term observational studies are needed to understand the dynamics of hepcidin regulation in preterm infants.

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