Background: The periodic transfusion of red blood cells (RBCs) is an essential supportive therapy for beta-thalassemia and sickle cell anemia (SCA) patients. Nevertheless, this therapy can cause some adverse effects, such as RBC alloimmunization. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of RBC’s alloimmunization and frequency of Rhesus (Rh) and Kell (K) antigens among SCA and beta-thalassemia patients in Al-Madinah region of Saudi Arabia.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted on 137 multiple transfusion patients with SCA and beta-thalassemia, who attended two of the largest hospitals located in Al-Madinah, Saudi Arabia. Demographic and medical data were collected from medical files of patients. Blood samples were collected from patients and Rh and Kell typing were done. Also, antibody screening and identification tests were performed.
Results: There were 66 (48.18%) pediatric patients with mean age of 7.8 years, while adult patients were 71 (51.82%) with mean age of 24.5 years. RBC alloantibodies were found in 9 patients (6.57%), and the most frequent alloantibody was anti-K. Antigen e (99.05%) was the most common antigen, while the least common was the antigen K (3.81%). The association between age (pediatric and adult) and alloimmunization rates was insignificant.
Conclusions: Although the RBC alloimmunization rate among SCD and beta-thalassemia patients in this study is low compared to other studies in Saudi Arabia and countries all over the world, it still warrants more attention. Phenotyping of donors/recipients’ RBCs for K and Rh subgroups may reduce the risk of alloimmunization and increase the efficiency of blood transfusion.