BACKGROUND Nafamostat mesilate (NM), a broad-spectrum and potent serine protease inhibitor, can be used as an anticoagulant during extracorporeal circulation, as well as a promising drug effective against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We conducted a systematic meta-analysis to evaluate the safety and efficacy of NM administration in critically ill patients who underwent blood purification therapy (BPT). METHODS The Cochrane Library,
Web of Science and PubMed were comprehensively searched from inception to August 20, 2021, for potential studies. RESULTS Four randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and seven observational studies with 2723 patients met the inclusion criteria. The meta-analysis demonstrated that conventional therapy (CT) significantly increased hospital mortality compared with NM administration (RR = 1.25, p = 0.0007). In subgroup analyses, the in-hospital mortality of the NM group was significantly lower than that of the anticoagulant-free (NA) group (RR = 1.31, p = 0.002). The CT interventions markedly elevated the risk ratio of bleeding complications by 45% (RR = 1.45, p = 0.010) compared with NM interventions. In another subgroup analysis, NM used exhibited a significantly lower risk of bleeding complications than those of the low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) used (RR = 4.58, p = 0.020). The filter lifespan was decreased significantly (MD = -10.59, p < 0.0001) in the NA groups compared with the NM groups. Due to the poor quality of the included RCTs, these results should be interpreted with caution. CONCLUSION Given the better survival outcomes, lower risk of bleeding, NM anticoagulation seems to be a safe and efficient approach for BPT patients and could yield a favorable filter lifespan. More multi-center RCTs with large samples are required for further validation of this study.