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Effects of a high-dose 24-h infusion of tranexamic acid on death and thromboembolic events in patients with acute gastrointestinal bleeding (HALT-IT): an international randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2020 Jun 20;395(10241):1927-1936. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30848-5. (Original study)

BACKGROUND: Tranexamic acid reduces surgical bleeding and reduces death due to bleeding in patients with trauma. Meta-analyses of small trials show that tranexamic acid might decrease deaths from gastrointestinal bleeding. We aimed to assess the effects of tranexamic acid in patients with gastrointestinal bleeding.

METHODS: We did an international, multicentre, randomised, placebo-controlled trial in 164 hospitals in 15 countries. Patients were enrolled if the responsible clinician was uncertain whether to use tranexamic acid, were aged above the minimum age considered an adult in their country (either aged 16 years and older or aged 18 years and older), and had significant (defined as at risk of bleeding to death) upper or lower gastrointestinal bleeding. Patients were randomly assigned by selection of a numbered treatment pack from a box containing eight packs that were identical apart from the pack number. Patients received either a loading dose of 1 g tranexamic acid, which was added to 100 mL infusion bag of 0·9% sodium chloride and infused by slow intravenous injection over 10 min, followed by a maintenance dose of 3 g tranexamic acid added to 1 L of any isotonic intravenous solution and infused at 125 mg/h for 24 h, or placebo (sodium chloride 0·9%). Patients, caregivers, and those assessing outcomes were masked to allocation. The primary outcome was death due to bleeding within 5 days of randomisation; analysis excluded patients who received neither dose of the allocated treatment and those for whom outcome data on death were unavailable. This trial was registered with Current Controlled Trials, ISRCTN11225767, and ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01658124.

FINDINGS: Between July 4, 2013, and June 21, 2019, we randomly allocated 12 009 patients to receive tranexamic acid (5994, 49·9%) or matching placebo (6015, 50·1%), of whom 11 952 (99·5%) received the first dose of the allocated treatment. Death due to bleeding within 5 days of randomisation occurred in 222 (4%) of 5956 patients in the tranexamic acid group and in 226 (4%) of 5981 patients in the placebo group (risk ratio [RR] 0·99, 95% CI 0·82-1·18). Arterial thromboembolic events (myocardial infarction or stroke) were similar in the tranexamic acid group and placebo group (42 [0·7%] of 5952 vs 46 [0·8%] of 5977; 0·92; 0·60 to 1·39). Venous thromboembolic events (deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism) were higher in tranexamic acid group than in the placebo group (48 [0·8%] of 5952 vs 26 [0·4%] of 5977; RR 1·85; 95% CI 1·15 to 2·98).

INTERPRETATION: We found that tranexamic acid did not reduce death from gastrointestinal bleeding. On the basis of our results, tranexamic acid should not be used for the treatment of gastrointestinal bleeding outside the context of a randomised trial.

FUNDING: UK National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme.

Discipline Area Score
Emergency Medicine 6 / 7
Internal Medicine 6 / 7
Gastroenterology 6 / 7
Hematology 6 / 7
Comments from MORE raters

Emergency Medicine rater

TXA for acute UGI bleeds does not reduce mortality but may increase VTE in some patients. The authors hypothesize that the lack of benefit may reflect the inability to pinpoint the onset of bleeding as opposed to trauma when the time of injury is obvious. In addition, they theorize that VTE may be secondary to a subset of liver disease patients with hypofibronlysis.

Gastroenterology rater

This is an important negative study.

Hematology rater

In this trial, tranexamic acid did not reduce death from gastrointestinal bleeding, but was associated with an increased risk for venous thromboembolic events and seizures. This information is relevant to clinically manage these high-risk patients.
Comments from EvidenceAlerts subscribers

Mr. Michael Franklin (3/1/2021 8:04 AM)

Since this meta-analysis was published, a randomized trial of face mask use by the general public has been published (Ann Intern Med. 2020 Nov 18;M20-6817. doi: 10.7326/M20-6817. Effectiveness of Adding a Mask Recommendation to Other Public Health Measures to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Danish Mask Wearers : A Randomized Controlled Trial ).

Dr. Rajeev Gupta (8/1/2020 3:32 PM)

The aim of the study is poor. In contemporary practice, all medical, and traumatic GI bleeds are managed with endoscopies. Why use a drug just to stop bleeding without understanding its precise location and etiology?