Blood banks face a perpetual supply shortage, but a clot-promoting agent known as recombinant activated factor VII (FVIIa) might offer a new means to staunch the demand for blood. When administered during surgery, the lab-generated enzyme can reduce a patient’s bleeding and need for transfusions, a new study indicates.
Dutch surgeons tested the drug or a placebo in 36 men undergoing removal of cancerous or seriously enlarged prostate glands. The surgery often causes substantial bleeding.
Early in their operations, 24 of the patients received injections loaded with either of two amounts of FVIIa. The other 12 volunteers got a sham injection. Neither the patients nor their surgeons knew which treatment went to whom.
The patients who got FVIIa lost less blood during surgery and needed fewer transfusions than their placebo-treated counterparts. None of those receiving the higher dose of FVIIa needed a blood transfusion, while 38 percent of those receiving the lower dose and 58 percent of those getting the placebo required extra blood to get through their operations.
There were no negative consequences from the treatment, Marcel Levi of the University of Amsterdam and his colleagues report in the Jan. 18 Lancet. FVIIa is considered safe for patients with blood clotting disorders, but it hasn’t been widely tested in other people.
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