Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 35, Issue 8, pp 1337–1342

CONTRA: Hydroxyethyl starch solutions are unsafe in critically ill patients

Special Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00134-009-1521-5

Cite this article as:
Hartog, C. & Reinhart, K. Intensive Care Med (2009) 35: 1337. doi:10.1007/s00134-009-1521-5



To describe the risk–benefit profile of hydroxyethyl starch (HES).


Narrative review.


(1) Efficacy: no single clinical study or systemic review has shown that administration of any HES solution confers a clinically relevant benefit compared to crystalloids in critically ill patients or surgical patients in need of volume replacement. Contrary to beliefs expecting a ratio of 4:1 or more for crystalloid to colloid volume need, recent studies of goal-directed resuscitation observed much lower ratios of between 1 and 1.6. (2) Safety: HES administration is associated with coagulopathy, nephrotoxicity, pruritus and increased long-term mortality. Clinical studies claiming that modern HES 130/0.4 is safe have serious methodological drawbacks and do not adequately address the safety concerns.


Given the complete lack of superiority in clinical utility studies and the wide spectrum of severe side effects, the use of HES in the ICU should be stopped. The belief that four times as much crystalloid as colloid fluid volume is needed for successful resuscitation is being seriously questioned.


ColloidsCrystalloidsHydroxyethyl starchEfficacySafetyCritically ill

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care MedicineFriedrich Schiller UniversityJenaGermany