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BACKGROUND: Tranexamic acid reduces blood loss in surgery and the risk of death in trauma patients. Meta-analyses of small trials suggest that tranexamic acid decreases the number of deaths from gastrointestinal bleeding, but these meta-analyses are prone to selection bias. OBJECTIVE: The trial provides reliable evidence of the effect of tranexamic acid on mortality, rebleeding and complications in significant acute gastrointestinal bleeding. DESIGN: A multicentre, randomised, placebo-controlled trial and economic analysis. Patients were assigned by selecting one treatment pack from a box of eight, which were identical apart from the pack number. Patients, caregivers and outcome assessors were masked to allocation. The main analyses were by intention to treat. SETTING: The setting was 164 hospitals in 15 countries, co-ordinated from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. PARTICIPANTS: Adults with significant upper or lower gastrointestinal bleeding (n = 12,009) were eligible if the responsible clinician was substantially uncertain about whether or not to use tranexamic acid. The clinical diagnosis of significant bleeding implied a risk of bleeding to death, including hypotension, tachycardia or signs of shock, or urgent transfusion, endoscopy or surgery. INTERVENTION: Tranexamic acid (a 1-g loading dose over 10 minutes, then a 3-g maintenance dose over 24 hours) or matching placebo. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome was death due to bleeding within 5 days of randomisation. Secondary outcomes were all-cause and cause-specific mortality; rebleeding; need for endoscopy, surgery or radiological intervention; blood product transfusion; complications; disability; and days spent in intensive care or a high-dependency unit. RESULTS: A total of 12,009 patients were allocated to receive tranexamic acid (n = 5994, 49.9%) or the matching placebo (n = 6015, 50.1%), of whom 11,952 (99.5%) received the first dose. Death due to bleeding within 5 days of randomisation occurred in 222 (3.7%) patients in the tranexamic acid group and in 226 (3.8%) patients in the placebo group (risk ratio 0.99, 95% confidence interval 0.82 to 1.18). Thromboembolic events occurred in 86 (1.4%) patients in the tranexamic acid group and 72 (1.2%) patients in the placebo group (risk ratio 1.20, 95% confidence interval 0.88 to 1.64). The risk of arterial thromboembolic events (myocardial infarction or stroke) was similar in both groups (0.7% in the tranexamic acid group vs. 0.8% in the placebo group; risk ratio 0.92, 95% confidence interval 0.60 to 1.39), but the risk of venous thromboembolic events (deep-vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism) was higher in tranexamic acid-treated patients than in placebo-treated patients (0.8% vs. 0.4%; risk ratio 1.85, 95% confidence interval 1.15 to 2.98). Seizures occurred in 38 patients who received tranexamic acid and in 22 patients who received placebo (0.6% vs. 0.4%, respectively; risk ratio 1.73, 95% confidence interval 1.03 to 2.93). In the base-case economic analysis, tranexamic acid was not cost-effective and resulted in slightly poorer health outcomes than no tranexamic acid. CONCLUSIONS: Tranexamic acid did not reduce death from gastrointestinal bleeding and, although inexpensive, it is not cost-effective in adults with acute gastrointestinal bleeding. FUTURE WORK: These results caution against a uniform approach to the management of patients with major haemorrhage and highlight the need for randomised trials targeted at specific pathophysiological processes. LIMITATIONS: Although this is one of the largest randomised trials in gastrointestinal bleeding, we cannot rule out a modest increase or decrease in death due to bleeding with tranexamic acid. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN11225767, ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01658124 and EudraCT 2012-003192-19. FUNDING: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 25, No. 58. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

Original publication

DOI

10.3310/hta25580

Type

Journal article

Journal

Health Technol Assess

Publication Date

10/2021

Volume

25

Pages

1 - 86

Keywords

BLOOD LOSS, BLOOD TRANSFUSION, COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS, GASTROINTESTINAL HAEMORRHAGE, PULMONARY EMBOLISM, STROKE, TRANEXAMIC ACID, VENOUS THROMBOSIS