Canadian Journal of Anesthesia

, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 293–310 | Cite as

Massive transfusion and coagulopathy: pathophysiology and implications for clinical management

  • Jean-François HardyEmail author
  • Philippe de Moerloose
  • Marc Samama
  • Members of the Groupe d’Intérêt en Hémostase Périopératoire
General Anesthesia



To review the pathophysiology of coagulopathy in massively transfused, adult and previously hemostatically competent patients in both elective surgical and trauma settings, and to recommend the most appropriate treatment strategies.


Medline was searched for articles on “massive transfusion,” “transfusion,” “trauma,” “surgery,” “coagulopathy” and “hemostatic defects.” Agroup of experts reviewed the findings.

Principal findings

Coagulopathy will result from hemodilution, hypothermia, the use of fractionated blood products and disseminated intravascular coagulation. The clinical significance of the effects of hydroxyethyl starch solutions on hemostasis remains unclear. Maintaining a normal body temperature is a first-line, effective strategy to improve hemostasis during massive transfusion. Red cells play an important role in coagulation and hematocrits higher than 30% may be required to sustain hemostasis. In elective surgery patients, a decrease in fibrinogen concentration is observed initially while thrombocytopenia is a late occurrence. In trauma patients, tissue trauma, shock, tissue anoxia and hypothermia contribute to the development of disseminated intravascular coagulation and microvascular bleeding. The use of platelets and/or fresh frozen plasma should depend on clinical judgment as well as the results of coagulation testing and should be used mainly to treat a clinical coagulopathy.


Coagulopathy associated with massive transfusion remains an important clinical problem. It is an intricate, multifactorial and multicellular event. Treatment strategies include the maintenance of adequate tissue perfusion, the correction of hypothermia and anemia, and the use of hemostatic blood products to correct microvascular bleeding.


Disseminate Intravascular Coagulation Hydroxyethyl Starch Massive Transfusion Fibrinogen Concentration Primary Hemostasis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

List of abbreviations


activated partial thromboplastin time


bleeding time


disseminated intravascular coagulation


fresh frozen plasma


hydroxyethyl starch


massive transfusion


microvascular bleeding


modified whole blood


packed red blood cells


prothrombin time


red blood cells

Transfusion massive et coagulopathie: physiopathologie et implications cliniques



Revoir la physiopathologie de la coagulopathie chez les adultes transfusés massivement et auparavant compétents sur le plan hémostatique, à la fois dans le contexte d’une intervention chirurgicale réglée ou à la suite d’un traumatisme. Recommander les stratégies thérapeutiques les plus appropriées.


Dans Medline, nous avons cherché les articles traitant de “massive transfusion,” “transfusion,” “trauma,” “surgery,”“coagulopathy” et “hemostatic defects.” Un groupe d’experts a examiné les résultats.

Constatations principales

La coagulopathie résulte de l’hémodilution, l’hypothermie, l’usage de produits sanguins fractionnés et la coagulation intravasculaire disséminée. La portée clinique des effets des solutions d’hydroxyéthyl-amidon sur l’hémostase n’est toujours pas claire. Le maintien d’une température corporelle normale est une stratégie de première intention efficace pour améliorer l’hémostase pendant la transfusion massive. Les globules rouges sont importants dans la coagulation et des hématocrites supérieurs à 30% pourraient être nécessaires à une hémostase adéquate. Chez les patients en chirurgie réglée, une baisse de la concentration de fibrinogène est observée précocement tandis que la thrombocytopénie est plus tardive. Chez les traumatisés, le trauma tissulaire, le choc, l’anoxie et l’hypothermie tissulaires contribuent au développement d’une coagulation intravasculaire disséminée et du saignement microvasculaire. L’utilisation de plaquettes et/ou de plasma frais congelé dépendra du jugement du clinicien ainsi que des résultats des tests de coagulation. La transfusion devra surtout viser le traitement d’une coagulopathie clinique (saignement microvasculaire).


La coagulopathie associée à la transfusion massive demeure un important problème clinique. C’est un événement complexe, multifactoriel et multicellulaire. Le traitement comprend le maintien d’une perfusion tissulaire adéquate, la correction de l’hypothermie et de l’anémie et l’usage de produits sanguins hémostatiques pour corriger le saignement microvasculaire.


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Copyright information

© Canadian Anesthesiologists 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-François Hardy
    • 1
    Email author
  • Philippe de Moerloose
    • 2
  • Marc Samama
    • 3
  • Members of the Groupe d’Intérêt en Hémostase Périopératoire
  1. 1.Département d’anesthésiologiePorte AS-1115-3, Pavillon Lachapelle, CHUM Hôpital Notre DameMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Hemostasis unitHôpital Universitaire de GenèveGenèveSuisse
  3. 3.Département d’anesthésie-réanimationHôpital AvicenneBobignyFrance

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