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BACKGROUND: Public concerns regarding the safety of transfused blood have prompted re-consideration of the use of allogeneic (from an unrelated donor) red blood cell (RBC) transfusion, and of a range of techniques designed to minimise transfusion requirements. OBJECTIVES: To examine the evidence for the efficacy of desmopressin acetate (1-deamino-8-D-arginine-vasopressin; DDAVP), in reducing perioperative blood loss and the need for red cell transfusion in patients who do not have congenital bleeding disorders. SEARCH STRATEGY: Articles were identified by: computer searches of MEDLINE, EMBASE, Current Contents (to May 2003), and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2003). References in the identified trials and review articles were searched and authors contacted to identify additional studies. SELECTION CRITERIA: Controlled parallel group trials in which adult patients, scheduled for non-urgent surgery, were randomised to DDAVP, or to a control group, who did not receive the intervention. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Trial quality was assessed using criteria proposed by Schulz et al. (Schulz 1995) and Jadad et al. (Jadad 1996). Main outcomes measured were: the number of patients exposed to allogeneic red cell transfusion, and the amount of blood transfused. Other outcomes measured were: re-operation for bleeding, blood loss, post-operative complications (thrombosis, infection, non-fatal myocardial infarction), mortality, and length of hospital stay (LOS). MAIN RESULTS: Eighteen trials of DDAVP (n=1295) reported data on the number of patients transfused with allogeneic RBC transfusion. In subjects treated with DDAVP, the pooled relative risk of exposure to perioperative allogeneic RBC transfusion was 0.95 (95%CI = 0.86 to 1.06). The use of DDAVP did not significantly reduce blood loss; weighted mean difference (WMD) = -114.3ml: 95% confidence interval (95%CI) = -258.8 to 30.2ml per patient) or the volume of RBC transfused (WMD = -0.35 units: 95%CI = -0.70 to 0.01 units). In DDAVP-treated patients the relative risk of requiring re-operation due to bleeding was 0.69 (95%CI = 0.26 to 1.83). There was no statistically significant effect overall for mortality and non-fatal myocardial infarction in DDAVP-treated patients compared with control (RR = 1.72: 95%CI = 0.68 to 4.33) and (RR = 1.38: 95%CI = 0.77 to 2.50) respectively. REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: There is no convincing evidence that desmopressin minimises perioperative allogeneic RBC transfusion in patients who do not have congenital bleeding disorders. These data suggest that there is no benefit from using DDAVP as a means of minimising perioperative allogeneic RBC transfusion.

Original publication




Journal article


Cochrane Database Syst Rev

Publication Date



Adult, Blood Loss, Surgical, Deamino Arginine Vasopressin, Erythrocyte Transfusion, Hemostatics, Humans, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Transplantation, Homologous