Progressive postinjury coagulopathy remains the fundamental rationale for damage control surgery, but the decision to abort operative intervention must occur before laboratory confirmation of coagulopathy. Current massive transfusion protocols have embraced pre-emptive resuscitation strategies emphasizing administration of packed red blood cells, fresh frozen plasma, and platelets in ratios approximating 1:1:1 during the first 24 hours postinjury, based on US military retrospective experience and recent noncontrolled civilian data. This policy, termed “damage control resuscitation” assumes that patients presenting with life threatening hemorrhage at risk for postinjury coagulopathy should receive component therapy in rations approximating those found in whole blood during the first 24 hours. While we concur with the concept of pre-emptive coagulation factor replacement, and initially suggested this in 1982, we remain concerned for the continued unbridled administration of fresh frozen plasma and platelets without objective evidence of their specific requirement.
A major limitation of current massive transfusion protocols is the lack of real time assessment of coagulation function to guide evolving blood component requirements.
Existing laboratory coagulation testing was originally designed for evaluation of hemophilia and subsequently used for monitoring anticoagulation therapy. Consequently, the applicability of these tests in the trauma setting has never been proven and the time required to conduct these assays is incompatible with prompt correction of the coagulopathy in the trauma setting.
This review examines the current approach to postinjury coagulopathy, including identification of patients at risk, resuscitation strategies, design and implementation of institutional massive transfusion protocols, and the potential benefits of goal-directed therapy by real time assessment of coagulation function via point of care rapid thromboelastography.