Resuscitation and transfusion principles for traumatic hemorrhagic shock

Philip C. Spinella, John B. Holcomb

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295 Scopus citations


The transfusion approach to massive hemorrhage has continually evolved since it began in the early 1900s. It started with fresh whole blood and currently consists of virtually exclusive use of component and crystalloid therapy. Recent US military experience has reinvigorated the debate on what the most optimal transfusion strategy is for patients with traumatic hemorrhagic shock. In this review we discuss recently described mechanisms that contribute to traumatic coagulopathy, which include increased anti-coagulation factors and hyperfibrinolysis. We also describe the concept of damage control resuscitation (DCR), an early and aggressive prevention and treatment of hemorrhagic shock for patients with severe life-threatening traumatic injuries. The central tenants of DCR include hypotensive resuscitation, rapid surgical control, prevention and treatment of acidosis, hypothermia, and hypocalcemia, avoidance of hemodilution, and hemostatic resuscitation with transfusion of red blood cells, plasma, and platelets in a 1:1:1 unit ratio and the appropriate use of coagulation factors such as rFVIIa and fibrinogen-containing products (fibrinogen concentrates, cryoprecipitate). Fresh whole blood is also part of DCR in locations where it is available. Additional concepts to DCR since its original description that can be considered are the preferential use of "fresh" RBCs, and when available thromboelastography to direct blood product and hemostatic adjunct (anti-fibrinolytics and coagulation factor) administration. Lastly we discuss the importance of an established massive transfusion protocol to rapidly employ DCR and hemostatic resuscitation principles. While the majority of recent trauma transfusion papers are supportive of these general concepts, there is no Level 1 or 2 data available. Taken together, the preponderance of data suggests that these concepts may significantly decrease mortality in massively transfused trauma patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-240
Number of pages10
JournalBlood Reviews
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Coagulopathy
  • Hemorrhage
  • Shock
  • Transfusion
  • Trauma


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