Efficacy and safety of erythropoietin for traumatic brain injury

Liu, Motao; Wang, Amy J.; Chen, Yu; Zhao, Gexin; Jiang, Zhifeng; Wang, Xinbang; Shi, Dongliang; Zhang, Tiansong; Sun, Bomin; He, Hua; Williams, Ziv; Hu, Kejia

Recent studies regarding the effects of erythropoietin (EPO) for treating traumatic brain injury (TBI) have been inconsistent. This study conducts a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to assess the safety and efficacy of EPO for TBI patients at various follow-up time points.

A literature search was performed using PubMed, Web of Science, MEDLINE, Embase, Google Scholar and the Cochrane Library for RCTs studying EPO in TBI patients published through March 2019. Non-English manuscripts and non-human studies were excluded. The assessed outcomes include mortality, neurological recovery and associated adverse effects. Dichotomous variables are presented as risk ratios (RR) with a 95% confidence interval (CI).

A total of seven RCTs involving 1197 TBI patients (611 treated with EPO, 586 treated with placebo) were included in this study. Compared to the placebo arm, treatment with EPO did not improve acute hospital mortality or short-term mortality. However, there was a significant improvement in mid-term (6 months) follow-up survival rates. EPO administration was not associated with neurological function improvement. Regarding adverse effects, EPO treatment did not increase the incidence of thromboembolic events or other associated adverse events.

This meta-analysis indicates a slight mortality benefit for TBI patients treated with EPO at mid-term follow-up. EPO does not improve in-hospital mortality, nor does it increase adverse events including thrombotic, cardiovascular and other associated complications. Our analysis did not demonstrate a significant beneficial effect of EPO intervention on the recovery of neurological function. Future RCTs are required to further characterize the use of EPO in TBI.


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December 20, 2022


Erythropoietin, Traumatic brain injury, Mortality, Neurological function improvement, Adverse events, Meta-analysis