Background: Pentoxifylline improves tissue oxygenation and intestinal blood flow in models of haemorrhagic shock, and it has been used for the treatment of intermittent claudication due to its beneficial effects on haemorheology. We investigated the effects of pentoxifylline on whole blood viscosity during packed red-blood cell transfusion in critically ill adult patients.
Methods: Twenty critically ill patients were randomly assigned to one of two groups (pentoxifylline group: n = 11, placebo group: n = 9) and prospectively studied. Forty-five minutes before and during the packed red-blood cell transfusion (10 ml min(-1)) over a period of 80 min, 1.5 mg kg(-1) . h(-1) pentoxifylline or placebo were administered intravenously. Haematocrit, plasma fibrinogen concentration, total protein concentration, whole blood viscosity (at a shear rate of 10 s(-1), 50 s(-1), and 100 s(-1)) and plasma viscosity were measured.
Results: After the packed red-blood cell transfusion, haematocrit levels increased significantly in both groups (pentoxifylline group: from 26.1 +/- 2.8% to 33.0 +/- 3.2; placebo group: from 24.4 +/- 3.3% to 32.6 +/- 2.6%; means +/- standard deviation). Compared to baseline, whole blood viscosity increased in both groups at all shear rates after the transfusion, but the increase was significantly less in the pentoxifylline group (26 +/- 15% vs. 49 +/- 14%, 23 +/- 11% vs. 39 +/- 12%, and 22 +/- 11% vs. 35 +/- 12% for the pentoxifylline vs. placebo groups at shear rates of 10 s(-1), 50 s(-1), and 100 s(-1), respectively). Plasma viscosity, total protein concentration, and fibrinogen concentration remained unchanged and no significant differences among groups were observed.
Conclusions: These results suggest that pentoxifylline is effective in attenuating the increase in whole blood viscosity after a transfusion of packed red-blood cells. Plasma viscosity is not influenced by pentoxifylline.