Patients with non-transfusion dependent thalassaemia (NTDT) can be placed on regular transfusional therapy either for the prevention or for the management of different complications.
We retrospectively evaluated the effects of blood transfusions (BT) in the real-life and quite extensive context of the Myocardial Iron Overload in Thalassaemia (MIOT) network where most of biochemical, cardiac, hepatic parameters and morbidities typical of the NTDT patients could be analysed and compared in a chronologically manner.
147 NTDT patients (46.49 ± 12.27 years; 92 females) who started regular BT at the mean age of 21.84 ± 17.85 years were considered. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) was used to quantify iron overload (T2∗ technique) and biventricular morphological and functional parameters (cine sequences).
For the 40% of the patients there were more than two indications for the transition to regular BT, with anemia being present in the 92.5% of the cases. The patients reached a pre-transfusion hemoglobin of 9.64 ± 0.72 g/dl.
The percentage of chelated patients increased significantly after starting regular BT (52.5% vs 91.7%; P < 0.00001).
Table 1 shows the changes (6 months before vs 6 months after starting regular BT) in the haematochemical and iron-overload parameters. A down-regulation of all erythropoietic and/or haemolysis indices and a drop-in platelets and white blood cell count were detected. No changes in serum ferritin, MRI liver iron concentration (LIC) and global heart T2∗ values were detected.
There was a significant decrease of the left ventricular end-diastolic volume index (101.58 ± 19.67 ml/m2 vs 91.65 ± 20.99; P = 0.050).
After the start of regular BT, patients were followed-up for 24.08 ± 15.62 years. There was a significant increase in the frequency of endocrinopathies (diabetes, hypogonadism, hypothyroidism and osteopenia), bone pain, infections, and alloimunization, but their prevalence remained lower than 20%.
A positive impact on patients’ health-related quality of life was detected, with the sense of well-being passing from 16.4% to 73.0% (P < 0.0001).
Following the use of regular BT and chelation therapy, only a mild increase in most of the complications evaluated in the analysis was recorded; we cannot exclude that it could be ascribable to aging per se, as it happens for general population. No increase in iron overload parameters was detected and conversely, we recorded a positive cardiac remodelling. Therefore, in the Italian context, the decision to regularly transfuse patients with NTDT, despite sometimes complex and problematic, may represent a way to prevent or slow down the natural progression of the disease and improve the patients overall quality of life.