The risks of aprotinin and tranexamic acid in cardiac surgery: a one-year follow-up of 1188 consecutive patients

Anesth Analg. 2008 Dec;107(6):1783-90. doi: 10.1213/ane.0b013e318184bc20.


Background: Our aim was to investigate postoperative complications and mortality after administration of aprotinin compared to tranexamic acid in an unselected, consecutive cohort.

Methods: Perioperative data from consecutive cardiac surgery patients were prospectively collected between September 2005 and June 2006 in a university-affiliated clinic (n = 1188). During the first 5 mo, 596 patients received aprotinin (Group A); in the next 5 mo, 592 patients were treated with tranexamic acid (Group T). Except for antifibrinolytic therapy, the anesthetic and surgical protocols remained unchanged.

Results: The pre- and intraoperative variables were comparable between the treatment groups. Postoperatively, a significantly higher incidence of seizures was found in Group T (4.6% vs 1.2%, P < 0.001). This difference was also significant in the primary valve surgery and the high risk surgery subgroups (7.9% vs 1.2%, P = 0.003; 7.3% vs 2.4%, P = 0.035, respectively). Persistent atrial fibrillation (7.9% vs 2.3%, P = 0.020) and renal failure (9.7% vs 1.7%, P = 0.002) were also more common in Group T, in the primary valve surgery subgroup. On the contrary, among primary coronary artery bypass surgery patients, there were more acute myocardial infarctions and renal dysfunction in Group A (5.8% vs 2.0%, P = 0.027; 22.5% vs 15.2%, P = 0.036, respectively). The 1-yr mortality was significantly higher after aprotinin treatment in the high risk surgery group (17.7% vs 9.8%, P = 0.034).

Conclusion: Both antifibrinolytic drugs bear the risk of adverse outcome depending on the type of cardiac surgery. Administration of aprotinin should be avoided in coronary artery bypass graft and high risk patients, whereas administration of tranexamic acid is not recommended in valve surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antifibrinolytic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Aprotinin / adverse effects*
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / mortality
  • Coronary Artery Bypass
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Renal Insufficiency / chemically induced
  • Risk
  • Seizures / chemically induced
  • Tranexamic Acid / adverse effects*


  • Antifibrinolytic Agents
  • Tranexamic Acid
  • Aprotinin