Efficacy of N-acetylcysteine in preventing renal injury after heart surgery: A systematic review of randomized trials

A. Selcuk Adabag, Areef Ishani, Hanna E. Bloomfield, Anita K. Ngo, Timothy J. Wilt

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80 Scopus citations


AimsThe aim of this study was to assess whether perioperative N-acetylcysteine (NAC), an antioxidant, prevents acute renal injury (ARI) after cardiac surgery.Methods and resultsWe performed a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of NAC in adult cardiac surgery patients. The RCTs were identified by searching MEDLINE (1960-2008), clinicaltrials.gov website, and hand-searching references of relevant publications. Primary outcome was ARI (absolute increase >0.5 mg/dL or relative increase >25, in serum creatinine from baseline within 5 days after surgery). Random effects model was used to perform a meta-analysis. Forest plots and I2 test were used to assess heterogeneity among studies. Ten RCTs (n = 1163 patients) were included. Mean age was 70 ± 7.4 years, 71 were male, and 66 underwent coronary artery bypass surgery. N-Acetylcysteine did not reduce ARI incidence [35 NAC vs. 37 placebo; relative risk (RR) 0.91, 95 CI 0.79-1.06, P = 0.24]. Overall, 3.3 of patients required haemodialysis (NAC vs. placebo; RR = 1.13, 95 CI 0.59-2.17) and 3 died (RR = 1.10, 95 CI 0.56-2.16). There was a trend towards reduced ARI incidence among patients with baseline chronic kidney disease assigned to intravenous NAC (RR = 0.80, 95 CI 0.64-1.01, P = 0.06).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1910-1917
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean heart journal
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development Program, USA, and Minneapolis/VISN-23 Center for Chronic Diseases Outcomes Research (CCDOR), USA. Dr Adabag is supported in part by Veterans Administration Clinical Science Research and Development Service (Grant no. 04S-CRCOE 001). Part of Dr Wilt’s effort was supported by NIDDK RO1 Grant no. DK063300-01A2.


  • Antioxidants
  • Cardiac surgery
  • Kidney
  • Meta-analysis
  • Mortality


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