Role of transfused red blood cells for shock and coagulopathy within remote damage control resuscitation

Philip C. Spinella, Allan Doctor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The philosophy of damage control resuscitation (DCR) and remote damage control resuscitation (RDCR) can be summarized by stating that the goal is to prevent death from hemorrhagic shock by "staying out of trouble instead of getting out of trouble." In other words, it is preferred to arrest the progression of shock, rather than also having to reverse this condition after significant tissue damage and organ injury cascades are established. Moreover, to prevent death from exsanguination, a balanced approach to the treatment of both shock and coagulopathy is required. This was military doctrine during World War II, but seemed to be forgotten during the last half of the 20th century. Damage control resuscitation and RDCR have revitalized the approach, but there is still more to learn about the most effective and safe resuscitative strategies to simultaneously treat shock and hemorrhage. Current data suggest that our preconceived notions regarding the efficacy of standard issue red blood cells (RBCs) during the hours after transfusion may be false. Standard issue RBCs may not increase oxygen delivery and may in fact decrease it by disturbing control of regional blood flow distribution (impaired nitric oxide processing) and failing to release oxygen, even when perfusing hypoxic tissue (abnormal oxygen affinity). Standard issue RBCs may assist with hemostasis but appear to have competing effects on thrombin generation and platelet function. If standard issue or RBCs of increased storage age are not optimal, then are there alternatives that will allow for an efficacious and safe treatment of shock while also supporting hemostasis? Studies are required to determine if fresh RBCs less than 7 to 10 days provide an outcome advantage. A resurgence in the study of whole blood stored at 4°C for up to 10 days also holds promise. Two randomized controlled trials in humans have indicated that following transfusion with either whole blood stored at 4°C or platelets stored at 4°C there was less clinical bleeding than when blood was reconstituted with components or when platelets were stored at 22°C. Early reversal of shock is essential to prevent exacerbation of coagulopathy and progression of cell death cascades in patients with severe traumatic injuries. Red blood cell storage solutions have evolved to accommodate the needs of non-critically ill patients yet may not be optimal for patients in hemorrhagic shock. Continued focus on the recognition and treatment of shock is essential for continued improvement in outcomes for patients who require damage control resuscitation and RDCR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-34
Number of pages5
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Trauma
  • hemorrhage
  • prehospital
  • red blood cells
  • shock
  • transfusion


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