Mechanism of action of tranexamic acid in bleeding trauma patients: an exploratory analysis of data from the CRASH-2 trial

Clinical Trials Unit, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London, WC1E 7HT, UK.

Critical Care (London, England). 2014;18((6):):685.
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Clinical Commentary

What is known?

The CRASH-2 trial, an international, multicentre randomized controlled trial involving over 20 000 patients published in Lancet in 2010, has shown that administration of tranexamic acid (TXA), an antifibrinolytic, to bleeding trauma patients within 3 hours of injury significantly reduces death due to bleeding (p = 0.0077), as well as all-cause mortality (20% reduction)(p = 0.0035) as compared to placebo. TXA is a synthetic derivative of lysine that inhibits fibrinolysis by blocking the lysine binding sites on plasminogen as well as by interfering with the binding of plasmin to fibrin.

What did this paper set out to examine?

The authors set out to investigate the mechanism of action of TXA in bleeding in trauma patients by examining the timing of its effect on mortality in patients evaluated via the CRASH-2 trial. There is debate in the literature as to whether TXA functions by reducing inflammation by reducing plasmin, a pro-inflammatory mediator, or if TXA functions by simply reducing blood loss. The authors hypothesized that if TXA reduces mortality by decreasing blood loss, its effect should be greatest on the day of injury when bleeding should be most profuse. Their belief was that if TXA reduces mortality by an anti-inflammatory mechanism its effect should be greater in the days following the injury.

What did they show?

It is clear that for tranexamic acid to be most beneficial in bleeding trauma patients, it should be given within 3 hours of injury. The effect of TXA on mortality is greatest for deaths occurring on the day of injury and for deaths due to exsanguination. It is still unclear if TXA reduces mortality by an anti-inflammatory mechanism as well as by reducing blood loss. The authors merely used data from CRASH-2 and examined hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals for all-cause mortality, deaths due to bleeding and non-bleeding deaths according to the day since injury; markers of inflammation were not measured. Future RCTs looking at specific inflammatory mediators measured in bleeding trauma patients receiving TXA versus placebo may be informative.

What are the implications for practice and for future work?

It is clear that for tranexamic acid to be most beneficial in bleeding trauma patients, it should be given within 3 hours of injury. The effect of TXA on mortality is greatest for deaths occurring on the day of injury and for deaths due to exsanguination. It is still unclear if TXA reduces mortality by an anti-inflammatory mechanism as well as by reducing blood loss. The authors merely used data from CRASH-2 and examined hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals for all-cause mortality, deaths due to bleeding and non-bleeding deaths according to the day since injury; markers of inflammation were not measured. Future RCTs looking at specific inflammatory mediators measured in bleeding trauma patients receiving TXA versus placebo may be informative.
Abstract
INTRODUCTION To investigate the mechanism of action of tranexamic acid (TXA) in bleeding trauma patients, we examined the timing of its effect on mortality. We hypothesised that if TXA reduces mortality by decreasing blood loss, its effect should be greatest on the day of the injury when bleeding is most profuse. However, if TXA reduces mortality via an anti-inflammatory mechanism its effect should be greater over the subsequent days. METHODS Exploratory analysis, including per-protocol analyses, of data from the CRASH-2 trial, a randomised placebo controlled trial of the effect of TXA on mortality in 20,211 trauma patients with, or at risk of, significant bleeding. We examined hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals for all-cause mortality, deaths due to bleeding and non-bleeding deaths, according to the day since injury. The CRASH-2 trial is registered as ISRCTN86750102 and ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00375258. RESULTS The effect of TXA on mortality is greatest for deaths occurring on the day of the injury (HR all-cause mortality = 0.83, 0.73 to 0.93). This survival benefit is only evident in patients in whom treatment is initiated within 3 hours of their injury (HR <3 hours = 0.78, 0.68 to 0.90; HR >3 hours = 1.02, 0.76 to 1.36). Initiation of TXA treatment within 3 hours of injury reduced the hazard of death due to bleeding on the day of the injury by 28% (HR = 0.72, 0.60 to 0.86). TXA treatment initiated beyond 3 hours of injury appeared to increase the hazard of death due to bleeding, although the estimates were imprecise. CONCLUSIONS Early administration of tranexamic acid appears to reduce mortality primarily by preventing exsanguination on the day of the injury.
Study details
Language : English
Credits : Bibliographic data from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine