A Canadian hospital-based HIV/hepatitis C look-back notification program.
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OBJECTIVE: To describe the process used to notify pediatric patients who received transfusions of blood or blood products at our institution before donor blood was routinely screened for antibodies to HIV (1985) and hepatitis C virus (1990), and to evaluate the effectiveness of the notification program. DESIGN: Patients who had received transfusions were identified through the hospital's medical records and the records from the Transfusion Medicine Laboratory. Patients were contacted by registered mail to provide notification of transfusion. A questionnaire was included with the notification to obtain information about the patient's awareness of the transfusion and whether he or she had undergone or planned to undergo testing for HIV and hepatitis C virus. SETTING: Tertiary care university-affiliated teaching hospital in Hamilton, Ont. PATIENTS: Patients 16 years of age or younger who had received blood products between February 1978 and November 1985. Patients who had received only albumin or immune serum globulin were not included as these products were not associated with viral transmission in Canada. RESULTS: Notification letters were sent to 1546 patients. Of these letters 522 (33.8%) were returned undelivered. Of the 1024 patients contacted 493 (48.1%) responded to the questionnaire, of whom 157 (31.8%) were not aware of their transfusion. A total of 130 (26.4%) of the respondents had already undergone testing for HIV, and 342 (69.4%) indicated that they would undergo such testing as a result of the notification. In contrast, only 30 (6.3%) of 474 respondents had undergone testing for hepatitis C virus, but 425 (89.7%) indicated that they would undergo such testing. Overall, the patients' response to the notification was neutral or positive; however, a number of patients expressed dissatisfaction and anxiety. CONCLUSIONS: The high proportion of patients who were unaware that they had undergone transfusion and who decided to undergo testing for HIV and hepatitis C virus as a result of notification supports the use of notification programs such as this one.
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