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Background: The number of observational studies that report an association between packed red blood cell (PRBC) transfusions and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) has increased. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the association between PRBC transfusions and NEC in observational studies.

Methods: Medline, Embase and Cochrane Library databases as well as the Pediatrics Academic Societies abstract archives were systematically searched to identify observational studies that investigated the association between PRBC transfusions and NEC. Key search terms included premature infant, blood transfusion and necrotizing enterocolitis. The generic inverse variance method with a random-effects model was used to meta-analyze selected studies. Odds ratios (ORs) and confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated.

Results: A meta-analysis of 17 observational studies that reported the association between PRBC transfusions and NEC was performed. The meta-analysis revealed no evidence of an association between PRBC transfusions and a higher risk of NEC (OR: 0.96; 95% CI: 0.53-1.71; P=0.88). The effect estimates that suggested an association between PRBC transfusion and NEC in matched case-control studies (OR: 1.20; 95% CI: 0.58-2.47; P=0.63) differed from those reported in cohort studies (OR: 0.51; 95% CI: 0.34-0.75; P=<0.01).

Conclusions: This updated meta-analysis of predominantly low-to-moderate quality observational studies suggests that there is no significant association between PRBC transfusions and NEC. A higher quality of evidence on this topic is needed.

Copyright (C) 2018 Walter de Gruyter