Background: Patients with severe traumatic injuries often present with coagulopathy and require massive transfusion. The risk of death from hemorrhagic shock increases in this population. To treat the coagulopathy of trauma, some have suggested early, aggressive correction using a 1:1 ratio of plasma to red blood cell (RBC) units.
Methods: We performed a retrospective chart review of 246 patients at a US Army combat support hospital, each of who received a massive transfusion (>/=10 units of RBCs in 24 hours). Three groups of patients were constructed according to the plasma to RBC ratio transfused during massive transfusion. Mortality rates and the cause of death were compared among groups.
Results: For the low ratio group the plasma to RBC median ratio was 1:8 (interquartile range, 0:12-1:5), for the medium ratio group, 1:2.5 (interquartile range, 1:3.0-1:2.3), and for the high ratio group, 1:1.4 (interquartile range, 1:1.7-1:1.2) (p < 0.001). Median Injury Severity Score (ISS) was 18 for all groups (interquartile range, 14-25). For low, medium, and high plasma to RBC ratios, overall mortality rates were 65%, 34%, and 19%, (p < 0.001); and hemorrhage mortality rates were 92.5%, 78%, and 37%, respectively, (p < 0.001). Upon logistic regression, plasma to RBC ratio was independently associated with survival (odds ratio 8.6, 95% confidence interval 2.1-35.2).
Conclusions: In patients with combat-related trauma requiring massive transfusion, a high 1:1.4 plasma to RBC ratio is independently associated with improved survival to hospital discharge, primarily by decreasing death from hemorrhage. For practical purposes, massive transfusion protocols should utilize a 1:1 ratio of plasma to RBCs for all patients who are hypocoagulable with traumatic injuries.