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Am J Kidney Dis. 2005 Nov;46(5):791-8.

Use of EPO in critically ill patients with acute renal failure requiring renal replacement therapy.

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Division of General Medical Sciences, Department of Internal Medicine, Washington University, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.



Recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO) is used widely to treat anemia in patients with chronic kidney disease, but the benefits of EPO use in patients with acute renal failure (ARF) are unclear. In vitro and animal studies suggest that EPO may promote renal recovery and decrease mortality in ARF.


We conducted a retrospective cohort study at a tertiary-care center to evaluate the use of EPO in 187 critically ill patients with ARF requiring renal replacement therapy.


Compared with patients not administered EPO (n = 116), patients administered EPO (n = 71) were significantly more likely to have baseline chronic kidney disease, have undergone vascular surgery, and have received intermittent hemodialysis, rather than continuous renal replacement therapy. In a propensity-adjusted analysis that controlled for differences between the 2 cohorts and baseline hemoglobin level, EPO use did not decrease the transfusion of packed red blood cells. Renal recovery was not more common in patients administered EPO: the odds ratio for renal recovery in the propensity-adjusted analysis was 0.63 (95% confidence interval, 0.30 to 1.3) with EPO use. In-hospital survival was more common in the EPO-treated group, but this potential benefit was not significant in propensity-adjusted analyses.


Although EPO use was not associated with a decrease in transfusion requirements or with renal recovery in our retrospective study, 37% of critically ill patients with ARF were treated with EPO at varying doses. A randomized controlled trial is needed to evaluate the potential benefits of EPO use in patients with ARF.

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