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The objective of this study was to systematically review the literature and to statistically summarize the evidence evaluating acute normovolemic hemodilution (ANH).Prospective, randomized, controlled trials of ANH that reported either the proportion of patients exposed to allogeneic blood or the units of allogeneic blood transfused were included. All types and languages of publication were eligible. Of 1573 identified publications, 24 trials (containing a total of 1218 patients) were included in the meta-analysis. When all trials were pooled, ANH reduced the likelihood of exposure to allogeneic blood (odds ratio [OR] 0.31, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.15, 0.62) and the total units of allogeneic blood transfused (weighted mean difference [WMD] -2.22 U, 95% CI -3.57, -0.86). However, there was marked heterogeneity of the results. In trials using a protocol to guide perioperative transfusion, ANH failed to reduce either the likelihood of transfusion (OR 0.64, 95% CI 0.31, 1.31) or the units administered (WMD -0.25 U, 95% CI -0.60, 0.10). Adverse events were incompletely reported. It is possible that biased experimental design is, in part, responsible for the reported efficacy of this technique. Implications: After a systematic literature review, 24 randomized trials examining the role of acute normovolemic hemodilution were identified, pooled, and summarized using statistical techniques. Many studies reported an impressive reduction in blood transfused. Closer examination suggests that these reductions in blood exposure may be due to flawed study design.

(C) 1998 International Anesthesia Research Society