Recognizing life-threatening bleeding in pediatric trauma: A standard for when to activate massive transfusion protocol

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2023 Jan 1;94(1):101-106. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000003784. Epub 2022 Sep 19.


Background: Traumatic hemorrhage is the most common cause of preventable death in civilian and military trauma. Early identification of pediatric life-threatening hemorrhage is challenging. There is no accepted clinical critical administration threshold (CAT) in children for activating massive transfusion protocols.

Methods: Children 0 to 17 years old who received any transfusion in the first 24 hours after injury between 2010 and 2019 were included. The type, volume, and time of administration for each product were recorded. The greatest volume of weight-adjusted products transfused within 1 hour was calculated. The cut point for the number of products that maximized sensitivity and specificity to predict in-hospital mortality, need for urgent surgery, and second life-threatening bleeding episode was determined using Youden's index. A binary variable (CAT+) was generated using this threshold for inclusion in a multivariable logistic regression model.

Results: In total, 287 patients were included. The median (interquartile range) age was 6 (2-14) years, 60% were males, 83% sustained blunt trauma, and the median (interquartile range) Injury Severity Score was 26 (17-35). The optimal cutoff to define CAT+ was >20 mL/kg of product; this optimized test characteristics for mortality (sensitivity, 70%; specificity, 77%), need for urgent hemorrhage control procedure (sensitivity, 65%; specificity, 74%). and second bleeding episode (sensitivity, 77%; specificity, 74%). There were 93 children (32%) who were CAT+. On multivariate regression, being CAT+ was associated with 3.4 increased odds of mortality (95% confidence interval, 1.67-6.89; p = 0.001) after controlling for age, hypotension, Injury Severity Score, and Glasgow Coma Scale. For every unit of product administered, there was a 10% increased risk of mortality (odds ratio, 1.1; p < 0.001).

Conclusion: Transfusion of more than 20 mL/kg of any blood product within an hour should be used as a threshold for activating massive transfusion protocols in children. Children who meet this CAT are at high risk of mortality and need for interventions; this population may benefit from targeted, timely, and aggressive hemostatic resuscitation.

Level of evidence: Therapeutic/Care Management; Level III.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Transfusion
  • Female
  • Hemorrhage / diagnosis
  • Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Hemorrhage / therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypotension*
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Wounds and Injuries* / complications
  • Wounds and Injuries* / therapy