BACKGROUND Bleeding is one of the commonest complications affecting children undergoing cardiac surgery on cardiopulmonary bypass. Antifibrinolytic drugs are part of a multifaceted approach aimed at reducing bleeding, though sufficiently sized pediatric studies are sparse, and dosing algorithms are heterogeneous. Our objective was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of antifibrinolytic agents as well as the effectiveness of different dosing
regimens in pediatric cardiac surgery using cardiopulmonary bypass. METHODS We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating randomized controlled trials published between 1980 and 2019, identified by searching the databases MEDLINE, EMBASE, PubMed, and CENTRAL. All studies investigating patients <18 years of age without underlying hematological disorders were included. The primary outcome was postoperative bleeding; secondary end points included blood product transfusion, mortality, and safety (thromboses, anaphylaxis, renal or neurological dysfunction, and seizures). Different dosing regimens were compared. Studies were dual appraised, outcomes were reported descriptively and, if appropriate, quantitatively using the Review Manager 5 (REVMAN 5) software (The Cochrane Collaboration). RESULTS Thirty of 209 articles were included, evaluating the following drugs versus control: aprotinin n = 14, tranexamic acid (TXA) n = 12, and epsilon-aminocaproic acid (EACA) n = 4. The number of participants per intervention group ranged from 11 to 100 (median, 25; interquartile range [IQR], 20.5) with a wide age span (mean, 13 days to 5.8 years) and weight range (mean, 3.1-26.3 kg). Methodological quality was low to moderate.All agents reduced mean 24-hour blood loss compared to control: aprotinin by 6.0 mL/kg (95% confidence interval [CI], -9.1 to -3.0; P = .0001), TXA by 9.0 mL/kg (95% CI, -11.3 to -6.8; P < .00001), and EACA by 10.5 mL/kg (95% CI, -21.1 to 0.0; P = .05). Heterogeneity was low for TXA (I2 = 29%; P = .19), moderate for aprotinin (I2 = 41%; P = .11), and high for EACA (I2 = 95%; P = <.00001). All agents also reduced 24-hour blood product transfusion. There was no clear dose-response effect for TXA nor aprotinin. Studies were underpowered to detect significant differences in mortality, thromboses, anaphylaxis, and renal or neurological dysfunction. CONCLUSIONS The available data demonstrate efficacy for all 3 antifibrinolytic drugs. Therefore, the agent with the most favorable safety profile should be used. As sufficient data are lacking, large comparative trials are warranted to assess the relative safety and appropriate dosing regimens in pediatrics.