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Transfusion in trauma: why and how should we change our current practice?

Theusinger, Oliver M; Spahn, Donat R; Ganter, Michael T

Current Opinion in Anesthesiology: April 2009 - Volume 22 - Issue 2 - p 305–312
doi: 10.1097/ACO.0b013e3283212c7c
Trauma and transfusion: Edited by Thomas Weber

Purpose of review Major trauma is often associated with hemorrhage and transfusion of blood and blood products, which are all associated with adverse clinical outcome. The aim of this review is to emphasize why bleeding and coagulation has to be monitored closely in trauma patients and to discuss the rationale behind modern and future transfusion strategies.

Recent findings Hemorrhage is a major cause of early death after trauma. Apart from the initial injuries, hemorrhage is significantly promoted by coagulopathy. Early identification of the underlying cause of hemorrhage with coagulation tests (routine and bedside) in conjunction with blood gas analysis allow early goal-directed treatment of coagulation disorders and anemia, thereby stopping bleeding and reducing transfusion requirements. These treatment options have to be adapted to the civilian and noncivilian sector. Transfusion of blood and its components is critical in the management of trauma hemorrhage, but is per se associated with adverse outcome. Decisions must weigh the potential benefits and harms.

Summary Future transfusion strategies are based on early and continuous assessment of the bleeding and coagulation status of trauma patients. This allows specific and goal-directed treatment, thereby optimizing the patient's coagulation status early, minimizing the patient's exposure to blood products, reducing costs and improving the patient's outcome.

Institute of Anesthesiology, University Hospital and University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Correspondence to Oliver M. Theusinger, MD, Resident, Institute of Anesthesiology, University Hospital and University of Zurich, Rämistrasse 100, CH-8091 Zurich, Switzerland Tel: +41 44 255 26 96; fax: +41 44 255 44 09; e-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.