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A Journal on Anesthesiology, Resuscitation, Analgesia and Intensive Care

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Anesthesiology, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care
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Minerva Anestesiologica 2007 July-August;73(7-8):401-15

language: English

Management of massive operative blood loss

Kozek-Langenecker S.

Clinical Division B, Department of Anesthesiology and General Intensive Care Vienna Medical University, Vienna, Austria


Coagulopathy associated with massive operative blood loss is an intricate, multicellular and multifactorial event. Massive bleeding can either be anticipated (during major surgery with high risk of bleeding) or unexpected. Management requires preoperative risk evaluation and preoperative optimization (discontinuation or modification of anticoagulant drugs, prophylactic coagulation therapy). Intraoperatively, the causal diagnosis of the complex pathophysiology of massive bleeding requiring rapid and specific coagulation management is critical for the patient’s outcome. Treatment and transfusion algorithms, based on repeated and timely point-of-care coagulation testing and on the clinical judgment, are to be encouraged. The time lapse for reporting results and insufficient identification of the hemostatic defect are obstacles for conventional laboratory coagulation tests. The evidence is growing that rotational thrombelastometry or modified thrombelastography are superior to routine laboratory tests in guiding intraoperative coagulation management. Specific platelet function tests may be of value in platelet-dependent bleeding associated e.g. with extracorporeal circulation, antiplatelet therapy, inherited or acquired platelet defects. Therapeutic approaches include the use of blood products (red cell concentrates, platelets, plasma), coagulation factor concentrates (fibrinogen, prothrombin complex, von Willebrand factor), pharmacological agents (antifibrinolytic drugs, desmopressin), and local factors (fibrin glue). The importance of normothermia, normovolemia, and homeostasis for hemostasis must not be overlooked. The present article reviews pathomechanisms of coagulopathy in massive bleeding, as well as routine laboratory tests and viscoelastic point-of-care hemostasis monitoring as the diagnostic basis for therapeutic interventions.

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