OBJECTIVE: To perform a meta-analysis of all relevant randomized controlled trials assessing the effect of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) in critically ill trauma patients.
BACKGROUND: ESAs have effects beyond erythropoiesis. The administration of the ESA epoetin alfa to critically ill trauma patients has been associated with a reduction in mortality.
METHODS: We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis with trial sequential analysis. We searched Medline, Medline in Process, and other nonindexed citations, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Database from inception until September 9, 2015, for randomized controlled trials comparing ESAs to placebo (or no ESA).
RESULTS: We identified 9 eligible studies that randomly assigned 2607 critically ill patients after trauma to an ESA or placebo (or no ESA). Compared with placebo (or no ESA), ESA therapy was associated with a substantial reduction in mortality [risk ratio (RR) 0.63, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.49-0.79, P = 0.0001, I = 0%). In patients with traumatic brain injury, ESA therapy did not increase the number of patients surviving with moderate disability or good recovery (RR 1.00, 95% CI 0.88-1.15, P = 0.95, I = 0%). With the dosing regimens employed in the included studies, ESA therapy did not increase the risk of lower limb proximal deep venous thrombosis (RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.72-1.29, P = 0.78, I = 0%).
CONCLUSIONS: The administration of ESAs to critically ill trauma patients is associated with a significant improvement in mortality without an increase in the rate of lower limb proximal deep venous thrombosis. Given the worldwide public health significance of these findings research to validate or refute them is required.