Hypothesis: Safety differences exist among colloids widely used for fluid management in acutely ill patients, as judged according to the comparative incidence of adverse events. Data Sources: Colloid safety data for human subjects were sought, without language or time period restrictions, by means of computer searches of bibliographic and clinical trial databases, hand searches of medical journals and Index Medicus, inquiries with investigators and colloid suppliers, and examination of reference lists. Search terms included "colloids", "morbidity", and "mortality". Study Selection: Controlled trials, cohort studies, pharmacovigilance studies, and prior meta-analyses were independently selected by 2 unblinded investigators. Of 189 candidate studies, 113 were included, with safety data encompassing 1.54 × 106 patients and 1.09 × 108 colloid infusions. Data Extraction: Two unblinded investigators independently extracted data. Study limitations and confounding factors were tabulated. Data Synthesis: With albumin as the reference colloid, the incidence rate ratio for anaphylactoid reactions was 4.51 (95% confidence interval, 2.06-9.89) after hydroxyethyl starch administration, 2.32 (95% confidence interval, 1.21-4.45) after dextran, and 12.4 (95% confidence interval, 6.40-24.0) after gelatin. Pruritus occurrence was significantly increased by hydroxyethyl starch exposure (odds ratio, 1.78; 95% confidence interval, 1.23-2.58). Artificial colloid administration was consistently associated with coagulopathy and clinical bleeding, most frequently in cardiac surgery patients receiving hydroxyethyl starch. On the basis of large-scale pharmacovigilance study results, albumin infusion resulted in a low rate of both total adverse events (3.1 to 8.6 per 105 infusions) and serious adverse events (1.29 per 106 infusions). Conclusions: Significant safety differences exist among colloids. Therefore, conclusions regarding the clinical usefulness of colloids as a fluid class should be formed with caution.
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