Predicting anti-Kell-mediated hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn: diagnostic accuracy of laboratory management


      There is controversy on critical cut-off values of laboratory testing to select pregnancies at increased risk for anti-Kell-mediated hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn. Without early detection and treatment, anti-Kell-mediated hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn may result in progressive fetal anemia, fetal hydrops, asphyxia, and perinatal death.


      We aimed to determine the value of repeated anti-Kell titer determination and biological activity measurement using the antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity test determination in the management of pregnancies at risk for anti-Kell-mediated hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn.

      Study Design

      This was a retrospective cohort study of pregnancies with anti-Kell and a Kell-positive fetus, identified from January 1999 through April 2015. Laboratory test results and clinical outcome were collected from the Dutch nationwide screening program and the national reference center for fetal therapy in The Netherlands, the Leiden University Medical Center. Diagnostic accuracy was measured (receiver operating characteristic curves, sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values) for anti-Kell titers and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity test. The relationship between the titer and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity measurements and the 2 foregoing measurements were computed with a Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient.


      In a 16-year unselected cohort, representing screening results of 3.2 million pregnancies resulting in live births in The Netherlands, we identified 1026 Kell-immunized pregnancies. In all, 93 pregnant women had anti-Kell and a Kell-positive child, without other red cell alloantibodies. In all, 49 children (53%) needed intrauterine or postnatal transfusion therapy. The first anti-Kell titer showed already a high diagnostic accuracy with an area under the curve of 91%. The optimal cut-off point for the titer was 4 (sensitivity 100%; 95% confidence interval, 91–100), specificity 27% (95% confidence interval, 15–43), and positive predictive value 60% (49–71%). The antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity test was not informative to select high-risk pregnancies. Linear regression showed no significant change during pregnancy, when antibody titer and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity test results were compared with every 2 foregoing measurements (P < .0001).


      Early determination of the anti-Kell titer is sufficient to select pregnancies at increased risk for hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn with need for transfusion therapy. If the Kell status of the fetus is known to be positive, a titer of ≥4 can be used to target intensive clinical monitoring.

      Key words

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