The burns triage tool this month plus a bit on urinalysis (pH) and the start of our decoding the FBC series. Also a reminder about the MAP guideline for management of CMPA in primary care, a link to some good courses on this topic and to a document I have put together on milks to use in the UK for CMPA.
With thanks to Dr Alexandra Briscoe and Professor Irene Roberts for their collaborative work.
The red cell count and haemoglobin (see February 2017 newsletter for normal ranges)
The red cell count is the actual number of red cells per mL of blood, and the haemoglobin (Hb) is the concentration of the Hb protein itself- the oxygen carrying protein.
A raised red cell count due to increased production of red cells is seen in children with chronic hypoxia, such as congenital heart disease and, in neonates, manifests as neonatal polycythaemia, usually due to chronic in utero hypoxia.
During the last 2 months of pregnancy erythropoiesis occurs at a rate of 3-5 x that of adults, consequentially the healthy newborn has a relative polycythaemia compared to infants and children- manifest as a raised Hb, red cell count and haematocrit.
The Hb falls over the first 2-3 months of life in response to several factors- with the onset of respiration at birth- oxygenation increases, erythropoieitin production and erythropoiesis is decreased via negative feedback. Neonatal red blood cells have a shorter half-life of 90 days compared to 120 days for red cells in healthy children and adults. In addition over this time period, neonates undergo rapid growth and weight increase with a subsequent increase in circulatory volume- leading to relative haemodilution. This physiological anaemia requires no intervention in otherwise healthy term infants and will rarely fall below 90g/L.
In contrast, infants born extremely prematurely at <28 weeks of completed gestation, will frequently require red cell transfusion. This is due to anaemia of prematurity. The cause is multifactorial, including low erythropoietin, shortened red cell lifespan, nutritional deficiency and iatrogenic blood letting, however the nadir in Hb occurs earlier (4-8 weeks compared to 8-12 weeks in term babies) and is more severe. Premature red blood cells have a life span of 35-50 days, and infants have a circulating blood volume of 90- 105 mls/kg, which could be as little as 45mls in a 24 week 500g infant. In addition, these infants do not receive maternal iron transfer via the placenta. Preterm infants also have a slow erythropoietin response to hypoxia and anaemia- this is because the site of production of erythropoietin is the liver rather than the kidney as per term infants. There is also evidence of increased metabolism of EPO in the preterm infant. (Strauss, 2010). Despite multiple studies into the use of exogenous erythropoietin for preterm infants, current guidelines recommend red cell transfusion for the management of anaemia of prematurity.
Ronald G. Strauss, Anaemia of prematurity: Pathophysiology and treatment, Blood Reviews, Volume 24, Issue 6, November 2010, Pages 221-225, ISSN 0268-960X, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.blre.2010.08.001.
In children with suspected malaria do we need three negative blood films to exclude a diagnosis of Malaria?
- with thanks to Dr Tom Waterfield for summarising his recent article (5) below for Paediatric Pearls
There are over 300 new cases of imported paediatric malaria in the UK each year and cases of imported malaria here have been increasing over the last 20 years (1). Malaria in children is particularly difficult to diagnose because the initial presenting features are subtler than in adults. Children may appear quite well initially with a fever and no focus but; they are at risk of a rapid deterioration and are more likely to develop severe malaria.
The “gold standard” for ruling out the diagnosis of malaria if clinically suspected is three negative thin and thick blood films (2). This approach however, relies on serial phlebotomy and the availability of adequately trained staff. Furthermore, during out-of-hours periods the time and resources required are likely to result in delays in obtaining results especially if trained staff have to come in from home. There are now a range of Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) that are highly specific and sensitive for malaria. So are three films really required when we have RDTs?
There is only one study exploring the combination of blood films together with RDT’s in diagnosing imported malaria and it was in adults (3). Of the 388 cases, 367 (95%) were diagnosed by the initial blood film. Of the 21 that weren’t diagnosed on the blood film 19 had RDT’s performed. This diagnosed a further 10 leaving only 9 cases (2.3%) not picked up by a single blood film and RDT. Only one case of P.falciparum infection was missed and this was in a partially immune individual who had already received an unspecified treatment. The remaining 8 missed cases were P.vivax and P.ovale.
If we extrapolate from this study, then if a single blood film and RDT are negative a diagnosis of malaria is extremely unlikely. This is especially true in cases of suspected P.falciparum in a non-immune patient who has not received any treatment. The most obvious criticism here, is that it is difficult to extrapolate adult data and draw conclusions relating to children. However, the available data comparing parasite counts between children and adults suggests that on average children have a comparable or higher parasite count than adults (4). This would suggest that the results seen for adults would be comparable or even favourable in children.
Because of the paucity of data overall and lack of paediatric data it is not possible to make a blanket recommendation. The risk of malaria in each individual needs to be considered in conjunction with investigation results. For more information on diagnosing malaria in children read – How to interpret malaria tests (5).
1. Ladhani S, Garbash M, Whitty CJ, Chiodini PL, Aibara RJ, Riordan FA, et al. Prospective, national clinical and epidemiologic study on imported childhood malaria in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2010;29(5):434-8.
2. England PH. THE PHE MALARIA REFERENCE LABORATORYLABORATORY USER HANDBOOK. Public Health England2015.
3. Pasricha JM, Juneja S, Manitta J, Whitehead S, Maxwell E, Goh WK, et al. Is serial testing required to diagnose imported malaria in the era of rapid diagnostic tests? Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2013;88(1):20-3.
4. Mascarello M, Allegranzi B, Angheben A, Anselmi M, Concia E, Lagana S, et al. Imported malaria in adults and children: epidemiological and clinical characteristics of 380 consecutive cases observed in Verona, Italy. J Travel Med. 2008;15(4):229-36.
5. Dyer E, Waterfield T, Eisenhut M. How to interpret malaria tests. Arch Dis Child Educ Pract Ed. 2016 Apr;101(2):96-101. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2015-309048. Epub 2016 Feb 2.