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Open Access Research

The effect of blood storage age on treatment of lactic acidosis by transfusion in children with severe malarial anaemia: a pilot, randomized, controlled trial

Aggrey Dhabangi1*, Edison Mworozi2, Irene R Lubega2, Christine M Cserti-Gazdewich3, Albert Maganda4 and Walter H Dzik5

Author Affiliations

1 Child Health and Development Centre, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

2 Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Mulago Hospital, Ministry of Health Kampala, Kampala, Uganda

3 Department of Hematology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

4 Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation, Kampala, Uganda

5 Blood Transfusion Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA

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Malaria Journal 2013, 12:55  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-12-55

Published: 6 February 2013



Severe malarial anaemia requiring blood transfusion is a life-threatening condition affecting millions of children in sub-Saharan Africa. Up to 40% of children with severe malarial anaemia have associated lactic acidosis. Lactic acidosis in these children is strongly associated with fatal outcomes and is corrected by blood transfusion. However, it is not known whether the storage age of blood for transfusion affects resolution of lactic acidosis. The objective of this pilot study was to evaluate the effect of blood storage age on resolution of lactic acidosis in children with severe malarial anaemia and demonstrate feasibility of conducting a large trial.


Children aged six to 59 months admitted to Acute Care Unit of Mulago Hospital (Kampala, Uganda) with severe malarial anaemia (haemoglobin ≤ 5 g/dL) and lactic acidosis (blood lactate ≥5 mmol/L), were randomly assigned to receive either blood of short storage age (one to 10 days) or long storage age (21–35 days) by gravity infusion. Seventy-four patients were enrolled and randomized to two equal-sized study arms. Physiological measurements, including blood lactate, oxygen saturation, haemoglobin, and vital signs, were taken at baseline, during and after transfusion. The primary outcome variable was the proportion of children whose lactic acidosis resolved by four hours after transfusion.


Thirty-four of 37 (92%) of the children in the short storage treatment arm compared to 30/37 (81%) in the long storage arm achieved a blood lactate <5 mmol/L by four hours post transfusion (p value = 0.308). The mean time to lactic acidosis resolution was 2.65 hours (95% CI; 2.25–3.05) in the short storage arm, compared to 3.35 hours (95% CI; 2.60–4.10) in the long storage arm (p value = 0.264).


Pilot data suggest that among children with severe malarial anaemia and lactic acidosis transfused with packed red blood cells, the storage age of blood does not affect resolution of lactic acidosis. The results support a larger and well-powered study which is under way.

Trial registration NCT01580111

Severe malarial anaemia; Lactic acidosis; Blood storage age; Blood transfusion; Children