Erythropoietin might have neurocytoprotective effects. In this trial, researchers studied its effect on neurological recovery, mortality, and venous thrombotic events in patients with traumatic brain injury. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted in 29 centers in seven countries examined the effect of erythropoietin on neurological recovery, mortality, and venous thrombotic events in patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI). A total of 606 patients who had experienced TBI within the previous 24 hours were randomly assigned to either erythropoietin 40,000 units or to a placebo of 0.9% sodium chloride. Both were given subcutaneously once a week for a maximum of three doses.
The primary outcome, assessed at 6 months, was improvement in neurological status, summarized as a reduction in the proportion of patients with an Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS-E) of 1–4. Ten patients were lost to follow-up, so the final data included 596 patients. Compared with placebo, erythropoietin did not reduce the proportion of patients with a GOS-E level of 1–4, and it also did not significantly affect 6-month mortality. In addition, erythropoietin did not increase the incidence of deep venous thrombosis of the lower limbs compared with placebo. “The effect of erythropoietin on mortality remains uncertain,” the researchers conclude.