Trauma-Induced Coagulopathy: An Institution's 35 Year Perspective on Practice and Research

Scand J Surg. 2014 Jun;103(2):89-103. doi: 10.1177/1457496914531927. Epub 2014 Apr 30.


Introduction: Injury is the second leading cause of death worldwide, and as much as 40% of injury-related mortality is attributed to uncontrollable hemorrhage. This persists despite establishment of regionalized trauma systems and advances in the management of severely injured patients. Trauma-induced coagulopathy has been identified as the most common preventable cause of postinjury mortality.

Methods: A review of the current literature was performed by collecting PUBMED references related to trauma-induced coagulopathy. Data were then critically analyzed and summarized based on the authors' clinical and research perspective, as well as that reported by other institutions and researchers interested in trauma-induced coagulopathy. A particular focus was placed on those aspects of coagulopathy in which agreement among clinical and basic scientists is currently lacking; these include, pathophysiology, the role of blood components and factor therapy, and goal-directed assessment and management.

Results: Trauma-induced coagulopathy has been recognized in approximately one-third of trauma patients. There is a vast range of severity, and the emergence of viscoelastic assays, such as thrombelastography and rotational thromboelastogram, has refined its diagnosis and management, particularly through the establishment of goal-directed massive transfusion protocols. Despite advancements in the diagnosis and management of trauma-induced coagulopathy, much remains to be understood regarding its pathophysiology. The cell-based model of hemostasis has allowed for characterization of endothelial dysfunction, impaired thrombin generation, platelet dysfunction, fibrinolysis, endogenous anticoagulants such as protein-C, and antifibrinolytic proteins. These concepts collectively compose the contemporary, but still partial, understanding of trauma-induced coagulopathy.

Conclusion: Trauma-induced coagulopathy is a complex pathophysiological condition, of which some mechanisms have been characterized, but much remains to be understood in order to translate this knowledge into improved outcomes for the injured patient.

Keywords: Coagulopathy; ROTEM; fibrinolysis; hemorrhage; thrombelastography; transfusion; trauma.

Publication types

  • Review