Aprotinin during coronary-artery bypass grafting and risk of death

N Engl J Med. 2008 Feb 21;358(8):771-83. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0707571.


Background: Aprotinin (Trasylol) is used to mitigate bleeding during coronary-artery bypass grafting (CABG). Accumulating evidence suggests that this practice increases mortality.

Methods: Using electronic administrative records of the Premier Perspective Comparative Database, we studied hospitalized patients with operating-room charges for the use of aprotinin (33,517 patients) or aminocaproic acid (44,682 patients) on the day CABG was performed. We tabulated the numbers of patients with a hospital-discharge status of death and performed three types of analyses: a multivariable logistic-regression analysis (primary analysis); propensity-score matching in the highly selected subcohort of patients who received full amounts of the study drug, who underwent CABG by surgeons who performed 50 or more CABG surgeries during the study period, and for whom information on 10 additional covariates was available because the surgery occurred on hospital day 3 or later; and an instrumental-variable analysis of data from patients whose surgeons showed a strong preference for one of the two study drugs.

Results: In all, 1512 of the 33,517 aprotinin recipients (4.5%) and 1101 of the 44,682 aminocaproic acid recipients (2.5%) died. After adjustment for 41 characteristics of patients and hospitals, the estimated risk of death was 64% higher in the aprotinin group than in the aminocaproic acid group (relative risk, 1.64; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.50 to 1.78). In the first 7 days after surgery, the adjusted relative risk of in-hospital death in the aprotinin group was 1.78 (95% CI, 1.56 to 2.02). The relative risk in a propensity-score-matched analysis was 1.32 (95% CI, 1.08 to 1.63). In the instrumental-variable analysis, the use of aprotinin was found to be associated with an excess risk of death of 1.59 per 100 patients (95% CI, 0.14 to 3.04). Postoperative revascularization and dialysis were more frequent among recipients of aprotinin than among recipients of aminocaproic acid.

Conclusions: Patients who received aprotinin alone on the day of CABG surgery had a higher mortality than patients who received aminocaproic acid alone. Characteristics of neither the patients nor the surgeons explain the difference, which persisted through several approaches to control confounding.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aminocaproates / therapeutic use
  • Antifibrinolytic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antifibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Aprotinin / adverse effects*
  • Aprotinin / therapeutic use
  • Blood Loss, Surgical / prevention & control
  • Coronary Artery Bypass* / mortality
  • Coronary Disease / surgery
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Aminocaproates
  • Antifibrinolytic Agents
  • Aprotinin