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Learning that your newborn has jaundice can be devastating. However, exchange transfusion is a medical procedure that can be life-saving for babies with severe jaundice and other blood related illnesses. It involves replacing your baby’s blood with healthy blood.
Jaundice and The Benefits of Exchange Transfusion
Jaundice is quite common in new born babies during the first week after birth. It makes the skin and eyes yellow and occurs when a chemical called bilirubin is present in excess in the baby’s body.
While this can be dangerous, your doctor will try to resolve the condition with exchange transfusion – a medical procedure in which a baby’s blood is first removed from his body with the help of a catheter and then replaced either with healthy blood of a donor or with IV transfusion of plasma. This procedure is also used in adults and older children with blood abnormalities like sickle cell anaemia.
Procedure of Exchange Transfusion – Blood Transfusion Treatment
An exchange transfusion is performed by an expert professional in a hospital or clinic. The doctor places catheters inside a vein in the baby’s arms. Blood is withdrawn in cycles. After each cycle, a fresh cycle of healthy blood or plasma is pumped into the baby’s body with another tube.
Risks Associated with Exchange Transfusion in Infants
The side effects of this procedure are uncommon and occur within six months after the transfusion if at all. The good news is they can usually be treated and only rarely do they prove fatal.
- There may be mild bruises where the needle had been inserted and it may take a few days for the bruise to heal.
- The baby might develop fever, nausea, pain in chest or some mild allergic reactions. In such cases, the doctor stops the transfusion immediately. He may or may not resume the treatment later.
- In very rare cases, where diligent screening has not been performed, the baby might be injected with the blood of someone infected with HIV or conditions like Hepatitis B/C.
- The baby undergoing exchange transfusion may also have the risk of iron overload. This can damage the liver, heart and lungs.
Post Exchange Transfusion in Neonates
Once the doctor finishes exchange transfusion, he checks the blood pressure, temperature and heart rate of the baby. If all these readings are normal, the tubes are removed from the baby’s body. The doctor keeps monitoring the baby’s blood for a few days during which your child will have to stay in the hospital for observation.
Jaundice treatment by exchange transfusion takes a long time and can be trying for both the child and parents. However, once it has been carried out successfully, it ensures your little one’s health and well being. If your baby has been diagnosed with jaundice, consult with the doctor and remember that exchange transfusion is always an option.