Is fresh frozen plasma clinically effective? A systematic review of randomized controlled trials


D. B. L. McClelland, Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, Ellen's Glen Road, Edinburgh EH17 7QT, UK. E-mail:


Randomized controlled trials of good quality are a recognized means to robustly assess the efficacy of interventions in clinical practice. A systematic identification and appraisal of all randomized trials involving fresh frozen plasma (FFP) has been undertaken in parallel to the drafting of the updated British Committee for Standards in Haematology guidelines on the use of FFP. A total of 57 trials met the criteria for inclusion in the review. Most clinical uses of FFP, currently recommended by practice guidelines, are not supported by evidence from randomized trials. In particular, there is little evidence for the effectiveness of the prophylactic use of FFP. Many published trials on the use of FFP have enrolled small numbers of patients, and provided inadequate information on the ability of the trial to detect meaningful differences in outcomes between the two patient groups. Other concerns about the design of the trials include the dose of FFP used, and the potential for bias. No studies have taken adequate account of the extent to which adverse effects might negate the clinical benefits of treatment with FFP. There is a need to consider how best to develop new trials to determine the efficacy of FFP in different clinical scenarios to provide the evidence base to support national guidelines for transfusion practice. Trials of modified FFP (e.g. pathogen inactivated) are of questionable value when there is little evidence that the standard product is an effective treatment.