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Background: The renoprotective effects of erythropoietin (EPO) are well-known; however, the optimal timing of EPO administration remains controversial. Red blood cell (RBC) transfusion is an independent risk factor for cardiac surgery-associated acute kidney injury (CSA-AKI). We aimed to evaluate the efficacy of EPO on CSA-AKI and RBC transfusion according to the timing of administration.

Methods: We searched the Cochrane Library, EMBASE, and MEDLINE databases for randomized controlled trials. The primary outcome was the incidence of CSA-AKI following perioperative EPO administration, and the secondary outcomes were changes in serum creatinine, S-cystatin C, S-neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin, urinary neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin, length of hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) stay, volume of RBC transfusion, and mortality. The subgroup analysis was stratified according to the timing of EPO administration in relation to surgery.

Results: Eight randomized controlled trials with 610 patients were included in the study. EPO administration significantly decreased the incidence of CSA-AKI (odds ratio: 0.60, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.43-0.85, P = .004; I2 = 52%; P for heterogeneity = .04), intra-operative RBC transfusion (standardized mean difference: -0.30, 95% CI: -0.55 to -0.05, P = .02; I2 = 15%, P for heterogeneity = .31), and hospital length of stay (mean difference: -1.54 days, 95% CI: -2.70 to -0.39, P = .009; I2 = 75%, P for heterogeneity = .001) compared with control groups. Subgroup analyses revealed that pre-operative EPO treatment significantly reduced the incidence of CSA-AKI, intra-operative RBC transfusion, serum creatinine, and length of hospital and ICU stay.

Conclusion: Pre-operative administration of EPO may reduce the incidence of CSA-AKI and RBC transfusion, but not in patients administered EPO during the intra-operative or postoperative period. Therefore, pre-operative EPO treatment can be considered to improve postoperative outcomes by decreasing the length of hospital and ICU stay in patients undergoing cardiac surgery.

Copyright (C) 2022 The Authors. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.