Anemia is common in intensive care unit (ICU) patients. Red blood cell (RBC) transfusions are mainstays of their treatment and can be life-saving. Allogeneic blood components inherently bear risks of infection and immune reactions. Although these risks are rare in developed countries, recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEpo) and other erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) have been considered alternative anti-anemia treatment options. As summarized herein, however, most of the clinical studies suggest that ESAs are not usually advisable in ICU patients unless approved indications exist (e.g., renal disease). First, ESAs act in a delayed way, inducing an increase in reticulocytes only after a lag of 3-4 days. Second, many critically ill patients present with ESA resistance as inflammatory mediators impair erythropoietic cell proliferation and iron availability. Third, the ESA doses used for treatment of ICU patients are very high. Fourth, ESAs are not legally approved for general use in ICU patients. Solely in distinct cases, such as Jehovah's Witnesses who refuse allogeneic blood transfusions due to religious beliefs, ESAs may be considered an exceptional therapy.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)