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pediatric blood draw limits: how much is safe

In pediatric studies, understanding the challenge of blood draws in children is crucial. The safety and well-being of our youngest study cohorts is critical. The blood volume in children, especially in infants, is significantly lower than in adults. This makes the procedure of drawing blood a delicate matter. 

girl gets blood draw

How Much Blood Can You Safely Draw

Determining the safe limit for a blood draw is predominantly dictated by the age of the child. As we understand from comprehensive research on safe blood draw limits:

  • Total Blood Volume (TBV) and Age: The TBV in children varies according to their age. For instance, neonates have approximately 85-90 ml/kg of body weight, while older children might have around 70 ml/kg. This varying blood volume underscores the need for age-specific care during blood draws.

  • Safe Draw Limits: Multiple studies and guidelines suggest that for infants and children, the maximum amount of blood drawn within a 24-hour window should range between 1% and 5% of their TBV. However, the gold standard is to keep it under 3% of the TBV. Advances like microsampling make adhering to these low percentages more achievable. It's noteworthy that for sick children, this limit is even more stringent at 3.8% of TBV within a day. Over a more extended period, such as eight weeks, only up to 10% of the TBV should be drawn.

Why the blood volume limitations?

Excessive or frequent blood draws, especially in a short timeframe, can lead to iatrogenic anemia, where the patient becomes anemic due to medical intervention. In neonates and critically ill children, this risk is heightened. Anemia can have a range of detrimental effects, including increased cardiac workload, hindered oxygen delivery to tissues, and potential developmental complications.

Challenges in Pediatric Blood Draws

Several factors make pediatric blood draws more challenging:

  1. Smaller Veins: Children's veins are smaller and can be more difficult to access.
  2. Anxiety and Fear: Many children are scared of needles, making the procedure more traumatic for them than for adults.
  3. Limited Volume: Due to the limited amount of blood that can be drawn, there's a need to ensure that samples are properly handled, especially if multiple tests are required.

Use Dried Blood Samples as an Alternative

There are recommendations to use dried blood spot (DBS) sampling or volumetric microsampling as an easier alternative method of collecting blood samples from children. Dried blood samples are typically collected using a quick finger-stick method to collect a limited volume of blood. This approach can reduce the potential burden on the child.

Innovations in blood draw methodologies have made the blood microsampling process smoother for pediatric patients. For newborns, the common practice is the heel prick method, where the practitioner pricks the baby's heel with a lancet to collect a few drops of blood onto a DBS card or on the tip of a microsampling device. This sample is analyzed as a dried blood sample in the lab, where it is tested for a range of disorders. This method, also known as capillary blood sampling, has several advantages.

Advantages of Capillary Blood Sampling

  1. Simplicity: The method requires minimal skills, making the collection straightforward.

  2. Less Traumatic: Vein detection can be challenging and traumatic for both the technician and the infant. Capillary blood sampling with a finger-stick or heel-stick doesn't require searching for a vein in the arm, which alleviates much stress.

  3. Minimal Invasiveness: Compared to venipuncture, this method is far less invasive.

  4. Safety: Given that only a minimal amount of blood is collected, it inherently becomes a safer option for children.

Microsampling as a Way Forward for Pediatrics

Healthcare professionals and researchers dealing with pediatric patients must be adept in understanding the safe thresholds for blood draws. Given the multiple tests a child may undergo, especially in clinical trials or other studies, it's crucial to account for the cumulative amount of blood drawn. A steadfast commitment to blood draw guidelines is indispensable. Yes, obtaining blood samples is vital for precise monitoring and medical treatment, but we should also prioritize the child's wellbeing.

Thanks to breakthroughs in microsampling techniques and bioanalytical instruments, the quantity of blood needed for analysis has been significantly reduced.

Embracing less invasive methods like capillary blood microsampling to abide by pediatric blood draw limits strikes a balance between medical and research imperatives and the blood sampling experience for pediatric patients and study cohorts.

Find out how scientists apply remote microsampling in decentralized research & pediatric studies around the globe. In some territories our devices are supplied for therapeutic or IVD use Outside of those territories our devices are supplied for research use only


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