Acute traumatic coagulopathy: pathophysiology and resuscitation

Br J Anaesth. 2016 Dec;117(suppl 3):iii31-iii43. doi: 10.1093/bja/aew328.


Acute Traumatic Coagulopathy occurs immediately after massive trauma when shock, hypoperfusion, and vascular damage are present. Mechanisms for this acute coagulopathy include activation of protein C, endothelial glycocalyx disruption, depletion of fibrinogen, and platelet dysfunction. Hypothermia and acidaemia amplify the endogenous coagulopathy and often accompany trauma. These multifactorial processes lead to decreased clot strength, autoheparinization, and hyperfibrinolysis. Furthermore, the effects of aggressive crystalloid administration, haemodilution from inappropriate blood product transfusion, and prolonged surgical times may worsen clinical outcomes. We review normal coagulation using the cell-based model of haemostasis and the pathophysiology of acute traumatic coagulopathy. Developed trauma systems reduce mortality, highlighting critical goals for the trauma patient in different phases of care. Once patients reach a trauma hospital, certain triggers reliably indicate when they require massive transfusion and specialized trauma care. These triggers include base deficit, international normalized radio (INR), systolic arterial pressure, haemoglobin concentration, and temperature. Early identification for massive transfusion is critically important, as exsanguination in the first few hours of trauma is a leading cause of death. To combat derangements caused by massive haemorrhage, damage control resuscitation is a technique that addresses each antagonist to normal haemostasis. Components of damage control resuscitation include damage control surgery, permissive hypotension, limited crystalloid administration, haemostatic resuscitation, and correction of hyperfibrinolysis.

Keywords: coagulation; physiology; resuscitation; transfusion; trauma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Coagulation Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Blood Coagulation Disorders / therapy*
  • Blood Transfusion
  • Humans
  • Resuscitation / methods*
  • Shock / blood
  • Shock / therapy
  • Wounds and Injuries / blood*
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications*
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy