Iron chelators for acute stroke

Lars E. Van der Loo, Rene Aquarius, Onno Teernstra, Catharina J. M. Klijn, Tomas Menovsky, J. Marc C. van Dijk, Ronald Bartels, Hieronymus Damianus Boogaarts*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review



Stroke is the second leading cause of death and a major cause of morbidity worldwide. Retrospective clinical and animal studies have demonstrated neuroprotective effects of iron chelators in people with haemorrhagic or ischaemic stroke. This is the first u pd ate of the original Cochrane Review published in 2012.


To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of iron-chelating drugs in people with acute stroke.

Search methods

We searched the Cochrane Stroke Group Trials Register (2 September 2019), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2019, Issue 9; 2 September 2019), MEDLINE Ovid (2 September 2019), Embase Ovid (2 September 2019), and Science Citation I ndex (2 September 2019). We also searched ongoing trials registers.

Selection criteria

We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of iron chelators versus no iron chelators or placebo for the treatment of acute stroke, including subarachnoid haemorrhage.

Data collection and analysis

Two review authors independently screened the search results. We obtained the full texts of potentially relevant studies and evaluated them for eligibility. We assessed risk of bias using the Cochrane 'Risk of bias' tool, and the certainty of evidence using the GRADE approach.

Main results

Two RCTs (333 participants) were eligible for inclusion; both compared the iron-chelating agent deferoxamine against placebo. Both studies evaluated participants with spontaneous intracerebral haemorrhage. We assessed one study to have a low risk of bias; the other study had potential sources of bias.

The limited and heterogeneous data did not allow for meta-analysis of the outcome parameters. The evidence suggeststhat administration of deferoxamine may result in little to no difference in deaths (8% in placebo vs 8% in deferoxamine at 180 days; 1 RCT, 291 participants; low-certainty evidence). These RCTs suggest that there may be little to no difference in good functional outcome (modified Rankin Scale score 0 to 2) between groups at 30, 90 and 180 days (placebo vs deferoxamine: 67% vs 57% at 30 days and 360/o vs 45% at 180 days; 2 RCTs, 333 participants; low-certainty evidence). One RCT suggests that administration of deferoxamine may not increase the number of serious adverse events or deaths (placebo vs deferoxamine: 33% vs 27% at 180 days; risk ratio 0.81, 95% confidence interval 0.57 to 1.16; 1 RCT, 291 participants; lovv-certainty evidence). No data were available on any deaths within the treatment period. Deferoxamine may result in little to no difference in the evolution of National Institute of Health Stroke Scale scores from baseline to 90 days (placebo vs deferoxamine: 13 to 4 vs 13 to 3; P = 0.37; 2 RCTs, 333 participants; low-certainty evidence). Deferoxamine may slightly reduce relative oedema surrounding intracerebral haemorrhage at 15 days (placebo vs deferoxamine: 1.91 vs 10.26; P = 0.042; 2 RCTs, 333 participants; low-certainty evidence). Neither study reported quality of life.

Authors' conclusions

We identified two eligible RCTs for assessment. We could not demonstrate any benefit for the use of iron chelators in spontaneous intracerebral haemorrhage. The added value of iron-chelating therapy in people with ischaemic stroke or subarachnoid haemorrhage remains unknown.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD009280
Number of pages29
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2020


  • Iron Chelating Agents ["therapeutic use]
  • Neuroprotective Agents ["therapeutic use]
  • Stroke rdrug therapy]
  • Humans


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