BACKGROUND: Persistent anti-donor isoagglutinins after major ABO blood group incompatible hematopoietic stem cell transplantation may cause delayed red blood cell engraftment and post-transplant pure red cell aplasia. DESIGN AND METHODS: We investigated the effect of pretransplant anti-donor isoagglutinin reduction by in vivo absorption and/or plasmapheresis on the incidence of pure red cell aplasia and the time to red blood cell engraftment in 153 hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients with major ABO incompatibility. RESULTS: Twelve patients (8%) developed pure red cell aplasia, 3/98 (3%) with, and 9/55 (16%) without prior isoagglutinin reduction (p=0.009). Red blood cell engraftment was faster in patients with isoagglutinin reduction; in addition, peripheral blood hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, acute graft-versus-host disease, and younger age were associated with faster red blood cell engraftment in Cox regression analysis. In patients with pure red cell aplasia the mean red blood cell engraftment occurred after 225 days (p<0.001) and was associated with a simultaneous decrease of anti-donor isoagglutinins. Patients with pure red cell aplasia had higher pretransplant anti-donor isoagglutinin titers (p=0.001) and received more post-transplant red blood cell transfusions (p<0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Following major ABO incompatible hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, pure red cell aplasia and delayed red blood cell engraftment depend on the levels of anti-donor isoagglutinins and are efficiently prevented by the pretransplant removal of these isoagglutinins. The benefits of reducing the time of transfusion-dependency and transfusion-associated risks must be carefully balanced against the potential side effects of isoagglutinin reduction.