Exsanguination in trauma: A review of diagnostics and treatment options

Injury. 2009 Jan;40(1):11-20. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2008.10.007. Epub 2009 Jan 8.


Trauma patients with haemorrhagic shock who only transiently respond or do not respond to fluid therapy and/or the administration of blood products have exsanguinating injuries. Recognising shock due to (exsanguinating) haemorrhage in trauma is about constructing a synthesis of trauma mechanism, injuries, vital signs and the therapeutic response of the patient. The aim of prehospital care of bleeding trauma patients is to deliver the patient to a facility for definitive care within the shortest amount of time by rapid transport and minimise therapy to what is necessary to maintain adequate vital signs. Rapid decisions have to be made using regional trauma triage protocols that have incorporated patient condition, transport times and the level of care than can be performed by the prehospital care providers and the receiving hospitals. The treatment of bleeding patients is aimed at two major goals: stopping the bleeding and restoration of the blood volume. Fluid resuscitation should allow for preservation of vital functions without increasing the risk for further (re)bleeding. To prevent further deterioration and subsequent exsanguinations 'permissive hypotension' may be the goal to achieve. Within the hospital, a sound trauma team activation system, including the logistic procedure as well as activation criteria, is essential for a fast and adequate response. After determination of haemorrhagic shock, all efforts have to be directed to stop the bleeding in order to prevent exsanguinations. A simultaneous effort is made to restore blood volume and correct coagulation. Reversal of coagulopathy with pharmacotherapeutic interventions may be a promising concept to limit blood loss after trauma. Abdominal ultrasound has replaced diagnostic peritoneal lavage for detection of haemoperitoneum. With the development of sliding-gantry based computer tomography diagnostic systems, rapid evaluation by CT-scanning of the trauma patient is possible during resuscitation. The concept of damage control surgery, the staged approach in treatment of severe trauma, has proven to be of vital importance in the treatment of exsanguinating trauma patients and is adopted worldwide. When performing 'blind' transfusion or 'damage control resuscitation', a predetermined fixed ratio of blood components may result in the administration of higher plasma and platelets doses and may improve outcome. The role of thromboelastography and thromboelastometry as point-of-care tests for coagulation in massive blood loss is emerging, providing information about actual clot formation and clot stability, shortly (10min) after the blood sample is taken. Thus, therapy guided by the test results will allow for administration of specific coagulation factors that will be depleted despite administration with fresh frozen plasma during massive transfusion of blood components.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Transfusion
  • Emergencies
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Hemorrhage / therapy*
  • Hemostatics / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Multiple Trauma / complications
  • Multiple Trauma / therapy*
  • Resuscitation / methods
  • Shock, Hemorrhagic / therapy


  • Hemostatics