Perioperative erythropoietin administration in patients with gastrointestinal tract cancer: prospective randomized double-blind study

Ann Surg. 2003 Mar;237(3):417-21. doi: 10.1097/01.SLA.0000055275.38740.56.


Objective: To investigate the effect of recombinant human erythropoietin (r-HuEPO) administration on perioperative hemoglobin concentrations and on the number of blood transfusions in patients undergoing surgery for gastrointestinal tract malignancies.

Summary background data: Erythropoietin has been shown to improve the yield of autologously predonated blood and to reduce the subsequent requirements for homologous blood transfusions in cancer patients.

Methods: In this double-blind placebo-controlled study, 31 cancer patients received subcutaneous r-HuEPO in a dose of 300 IU/kg body weight plus 100 mg iron intravenously (study group) and 32 patients received placebo medication and iron (control group). All patients received the medications daily for at least 7 days before and 7 days after the operation.

Results: Patients who received erythropoietin received significantly fewer transfusions intraoperatively and postoperatively. Postoperatively, the study group had significantly higher hematocrit, hemoglobin, and reticulocyte count values compared to the control group. The use of erythropoietin was also associated with a reduced number of postoperative complications and improved 1-year survival.

Conclusions: Patients with gastrointestinal tract cancer and mild anemia benefit from perioperative erythropoietin administration in terms of stimulated erythropoiesis, reduction in the number of blood transfusions, and a favorable outcome.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Loss, Surgical
  • Blood Transfusion
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Erythropoietin / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / blood
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Hematocrit
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Preoperative Care*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Reticulocyte Count
  • Survival Rate


  • Hemoglobins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Erythropoietin