Trauma-induced coagulopathy (TIC) is a complex, multifactorial failure of hemostasis that occurs in 25% of severely injured patients and results in a fourfold higher mortality. However, the role of platelets in this state remains poorly understood. We set out to identify molecular changes that may underpin platelet dysfunction after major injury and to determine how they relate to coagulopathy and outcome. We performed a range of hemostatic and platelet-specific studies in blood samples obtained from critically injured patients within 2 hours of injury and collected prospective data on patient characteristics and clinical outcomes. We observed that, although platelet counts were preserved above critical levels, circulating platelets sampled from trauma patients exhibited a profoundly reduced response to both collagen and the selective glycoprotein VI (GPVI) agonist collagen-related peptide, compared with those from healthy volunteers. These responses correlated closely with overall clot strength and mortality. Surface expression of the collagen receptors GPIbα and GPVI was reduced on circulating platelets in trauma patients, with increased levels of the shed ectodomain fragment of GPVI detectable in plasma. Levels of shed GPVI were highest in patients with more severe injuries and TIC. Collectively, these observations demonstrate that platelets experience a loss of GPVI and GPIbα after severe injury and translate into a reduction in the responsiveness of platelets during active hemorrhage. In turn, they are associated with reduced hemostatic competence and increased mortality. Targeting proteolytic shedding of platelet receptors is a potential therapeutic strategy for maintaining hemostatic competence in bleeding and improving the efficacy of platelet transfusions.
© 2020 by The American Society of Hematology.