Safety and efficacy of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents in critically ill patients admitted to the intensive care unit: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Edward Litton, Peter Latham, Julia Inman, Jingjing Luo, Peter Allan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Purpose: Severe immune dysregulation is common in patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and is associated with adverse outcomes. Erythropoietin-stimulating agents (ESAs) have immune-modulating and anti-apoptotic effects. However, their safety and efficacy in critically ill patients remain uncertain. We evaluated whether ESAs, administered to critically unwell adult patients admitted to the ICU, reduced mortality at hospital discharge. Methods: The search strategy was conducted according to a predetermined protocol and included OVID MEDLINE, OVID EMBASE and The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials from inception until 20 May 2019. Publications were eligible for inclusion if they were randomized controlled trials (RCTs) including adult patients admitted to an ICU, that identified and reported a group receiving ESA therapy compared to a group not receiving ESA therapy and reported mortality. There were no language restrictions. Results: The systematic review included 21 studies with 5452 participants. In-hospital mortality, reported in 16 studies of which only one was at low risk of bias, was lower in the ESA group (276 of 2187 patients, 12.6%) than the comparator group (339 out of 2204 patients, 15.4%), [relative risk (RR) 0.82, 95% CI 0.71–0.94, P = 0.006, I2 = 0.0%]. The RR of SAEs and thromboembolic events for the ESA and comparator groups were similar, RR 1.11 (95% CI 0.94–1.31, P = 0.228, I2 66%) and 1.22 (95% CI 0.95–1.58, P = 0.086, I2 47%), respectively. Conclusions: In heterogenous populations of critically ill adults, evidence from RCTs of mainly low or unclear quality, suggests that ESA therapy may decrease mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1190-1199
JournalIntensive Care Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019


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