BACKGROUND: Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH), defined as a blood loss of 500 mL or more after birth, is the leading cause of maternal death worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all women giving birth should receive a prophylactic uterotonic agent. Despite the routine administration of a uterotonic agent for prevention, PPH remains a common complication causing one-quarter of all maternal deaths globally. When prevention fails and PPH occurs, further administration of uterotonic agents as ‘first-line’ treatment is recommended. However, there is uncertainty about which uterotonic agent is best for the ‘first-line’ treatment of PPH. OBJECTIVES: To identify the most effective uterotonic agent(s) with the least side-effects for PPH treatment, and generate a meaningful ranking among all available agents according to their relative effectiveness and side-effect profile. SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth’s Trials Register, ClinicalTrials.gov, the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (5 May 2020), and the reference lists of all retrieved studies. SELECTION CRITERIA: All randomised controlled trials or cluster-randomised trials comparing the effectiveness and safety of uterotonic agents with other uterotonic agents for the treatment of PPH were eligible for inclusion. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently assessed all trials for inclusion, extracted data and assessed each trial for risk of bias. Our primary outcomes were additional blood loss of 500 mL or more after recruitment to the trial until cessation of active bleeding and the composite outcome of maternal death or severe morbidity. Secondary outcomes included blood loss-related outcomes, morbidity outcomes, and patient-reported outcomes. We performed pairwise meta-analyses and indirect comparisons, where possible, but due to the limited number of included studies, we were unable to conduct the planned network meta-analysis. We used the GRADE approach to assess the certainty of evidence. MAIN RESULTS: Seven trials, involving 3738 women in 10 countries, were included in this review. All trials were conducted in hospital settings. Randomised women gave birth vaginally, except in one small trial, where women gave birth either vaginally or by caesarean section. Across the seven trials (14 trial arms) the following agents were used: six trial arms used oxytocin alone; four trial arms used misoprostol plus oxytocin; three trial arms used misoprostol; one trial arm used Syntometrine® (oxytocin and ergometrine fixed-dose combination) plus oxytocin infusion. Pairwise meta-analysis of two trials (1787 participants), suggests that misoprostol, as first-line treatment uterotonic agent, probably increases the risk of blood transfusion (risk ratio (RR) 1.47, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.02 to 2.14, moderate-certainty) compared with oxytocin. Low-certainty evidence suggests that misoprostol administration may increase the incidence of additional blood loss of 1000 mL or more (RR 2.57, 95% CI 1.00 to 6.64). The data comparing misoprostol with oxytocin is imprecise, with a wide range of treatment effects for the additional blood loss of 500 mL or more (RR 1.66, 95% CI 0.69 to 4.02, low-certainty), maternal death or severe morbidity (RR 1.98, 95% CI 0.36 to 10.72, low-certainty, based on one study n = 809 participants, as the second study had zero events), and the use of additional uterotonics (RR 1.30, 95% CI 0.57 to 2.94, low-certainty). The risk of side-effects may be increased with the use of misoprostol compared with oxytocin: vomiting (2 trials, 1787 participants, RR 2.47, 95% CI 1.37 to 4.47, high-certainty) and fever (2 trials, 1787 participants, RR 3.43, 95% CI 0.65 to 18.18, low-certainty). According to pairwise meta-analysis of four trials (1881 participants) generating high-certainty evidence, misoprostol plus oxytocin makes little or no difference to the use of additional uterotonics (RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.94 to 1.05) and to blood transfusion (RR 0.95, 95% CI 0.77 to 1.17) compared with oxytocin. We cannot rule out an important benefit of using the misoprostol plus oxytocin combination over oxytocin alone, for additional blood loss of 500 mL or more (RR 0.84, 95% CI 0.66 to 1.06, moderate-certainty). We also cannot rule out important benefits or harms for additional blood loss of 1000 mL or more (RR 0.76, 95% CI 0.43 to 1.34, moderate-certainty, 3 trials, 1814 participants, one study reported zero events), and maternal mortality or severe morbidity (RR 1.09, 95% CI 0.35 to 3.39, moderate-certainty). Misoprostol plus oxytocin increases the incidence of fever (4 trials, 1866 participants, RR 3.07, 95% CI 2.62 to 3.61, high-certainty), and vomiting (2 trials, 1482 participants, RR 1.85, 95% CI 1.16 to 2.95, high-certainty) compared with oxytocin alone. For all outcomes of interest, the available evidence on the misoprostol versus Syntometrine® plus oxytocin combination was of very low-certainty and these effects remain unclear. Although network meta-analysis was not performed, we were able to compare the misoprostol plus oxytocin combination with misoprostol alone through the common comparator of oxytocin. This indirect comparison suggests that the misoprostol plus oxytocin combination probably reduces the risk of blood transfusion (RR 0.65, 95% CI 0.42 to 0.99, moderate-certainty) and may reduce the risk of additional blood loss of 1000 mL or more (RR 0.30, 95% CI 0.10 to 0.89, low-certainty) compared with misoprostol alone. The combination makes little or no difference to vomiting (RR 0.75, 95% CI 0.35 to 1.59, high-certainty) compared with misoprostol alone. Misoprostol plus oxytocin compared to misoprostol alone are compatible with a wide range of treatment effects for additional blood loss of 500 mL or more (RR 0.51, 95% CI 0.20 to 1.26, low-certainty), maternal mortality or severe morbidity (RR 0.55, 95% CI 0.07 to 4.24, low-certainty), use of additional uterotonics (RR 0.76, 95% CI 0.33 to 1.73, low-certainty), and fever (RR 0.90, 95% CI 0.17 to 4.77, low-certainty). AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: The available evidence suggests that oxytocin used as first-line treatment of PPH probably is more effective than misoprostol with less side-effects. Adding misoprostol to the conventional treatment of oxytocin probably makes little or no difference to effectiveness outcomes, and is also associated with more side-effects. The evidence for most uterotonic agents used as first-line treatment of PPH is limited, with no evidence found for commonly used agents, such as injectable prostaglandins, ergometrine, and Syntometrine®.
Link to publisher’s web site