Use of Epoetin Alfa in Critically III Patients

Mehrnaz Pajoumand, Brian L. Erstad, James M. Camamo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To discuss the controversies regarding the use of epoetin alfa (EPO) for reducing red blood cell (RBC) transfusions in critically ill patients with anemia. DATA SOURCES: A MEDLINE search (1966-July 2003) was conducted using the search terms anemia; critical illness; erythropoietin; epoetin alfa; and erythropoietin, recombinant. References of selected articles were reviewed for studies that may have been missed by the computerized search. STUDY SELECTION AND DATA EXTRACTION: Studies pertaining to the use of EPO for anemia of critical illness with an emphasis on data obtained from controlled trials. DATA SYNTHESIS: Anemia is a common complication in patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU). Two prospective, randomized studies have demonstrated decreased transfusion requirements associated with EPO administration in medical/surgical patients who were in the ICU for at least 3 days and had hematocrit concentrations <38%. No differences were found in length of stay or mortality. A multicenter trial found that a restrictive strategy of RBC transfusion (hemoglobin goal 7-9 g/dL) was associated with in-hospital mortality lower than that with a more liberal approach, which calls into question the 38% hematocrit goal in the EPO trials. Furthermore, preliminary results from an economic analysis of EPO use in the ICU setting have demonstrated that EPO is not cost-effective. CONCLUSIONS: Given the controversies surrounding EPO administration in critically ill patients, institutions are encouraged to develop EPO guidelines to help ensure the most appropriate use of this expensive product. Additional studies regarding patients most likely to benefit from EPO therapy, the most effective dosing regimen, and use of adjunctive therapies are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)641-648
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Pharmacotherapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Anemia
  • Blood transfusion
  • Erythropoietin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Use of Epoetin Alfa in Critically III Patients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this