Massive hemorrhage and transfusion in the operating room

In this Continuing Professional Development module, we review the pathophysiology and clinical manifestations associated with massive hemorrhage as well as laboratory investigations and appropriate therapeutic measures. In addition to reviewing the available blood/plasma products and adjunct therapy, we also explore the role of the anesthesiologist in a massive transfusion protocol scenario.

Massive hemorrhage can be either anticipated or unexpected. The coinciding presence of acidosis, hypothermia, and hypotension contribute greatly to a poor outcome. Red blood cells not only increase oxygen carrying capacity, but they also play a role in providing hemostasis. While timely laboratory results, including point-of-care testing, are important, transfusion remains a clinical decision. Adjunct therapies other than blood components have contributed to improved outcomes. The pathophysiology of massive obstetric hemorrhage is unique when compared with the non-obstetric population. The approach to massive hemorrhage and its treatment vary considerably from institution to institution.
Massive hemorrhage is a multidisciplinary challenge that requires immediate response and communication between clinicians, nurses, other healthcare providers, laboratory testing, and blood banks. Basic knowledge and utilization of available products and therapies are inconsistent. A massive transfusion protocol can be used effectively to reduce chaos and ensure that correct treatments and proper dosing occur in a timely manner.

Objectives of this Continuing Professional Development (CPD) module:

After reading this module, the reader should be able to:

  1. Describe both the clinical and pathophysiological manifestations of massive hemorrhage.
  2. Correctly order the appropriate blood products with the appropriate dosing and delivery.
  3. List other available treatment modalities, besides blood products.
  4. Organize a real-time massive transfusion checklist.

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