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Traumatic coagulopathy and massive transfusion: improving outcomes and saving blood

Programme Grants for Applied Research, No. 5.19

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Author Information
Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; .


This research programme has led to new understandings of trauma-induced coagulopathy and identified new ways of diagnosing and treating the condition.



Dysfunction of the coagulation system, termed trauma-induced coagulopathy (TIC), is a major problem in patients who bleed after injury. Trauma haemorrhage is considered one of the leading preventable causes of death worldwide. Deaths occur early and, despite the presence of trauma teams and large transfusions of blood products, outcomes remain poor.


We conducted a multimodal programme of work to develop our understanding of coagulopathy and its optimal management. We studied the epidemiology, management and health economics of trauma haemorrhage, including the provision of care during mass casualty events. We combined systematic reviews of the literature with a national study of trauma haemorrhage, its transfusion management and associated health-care costs. We further examined several point-of-care coagulation tools for their ability to diagnose coagulopathy and assess the response to blood component therapy. We progressively implemented our findings into practice and assessed the outcomes of trauma patients presenting to our major trauma centre. To examine different approaches to the provision of blood to casualties in a mass casualty event, we constructed a discrete event model based on data from the 2005 London bombings.

Key results:

Our systematic reviews found little strong evidence for the existing diagnostic tools or the practice of delivery of blood components in trauma haemorrhage. Our national study recruited 442 patients in 22 hospitals and found that the 1-year mortality rate for massive haemorrhage approached 50%. Half of these deaths occurred in the first 24 hours after injury and half of these occurred in the first 4 hours. We identified this early time window as a period when the provision of blood component therapy was often below the recommended thresholds and blood component therapy was delivered inconsistently. Studying early TIC we determined that loss of fibrinogen and excessive fibrinolysis were key derangements. We were able to determine that rotational thromboelastometry could identify early coagulopathy within 5 minutes, a large improvement on laboratory tests. We were further able to show how existing damage control resuscitation regimens with high-dose plasma do not maintain haemostatic competency during haemorrhage. In total, the estimated cost of treating a major haemorrhage patient was £20,600 and the estimated cost of treating a massive haemorrhage patient was £24,000. Nationally, the estimated cost of trauma haemorrhage is £85M annually. In mass casualty situations, early results show that the only mutable factor that affects the provision of care to a large degree, in the initial phase of the response, is the level of blood stocks held in the receiving hospital.


This multimodal programme of work has led to new understandings of the epidemiology of trauma haemorrhage and its underlying mechanisms and clinical course. We have defined diagnostic tools and trigger thresholds for identification and management and increased our understanding of how blood component and other therapeutics affect coagulopathy and when they are likely to be most effective. This diagnostic work has been taken forward at an international level to produce new personalised guidelines for the management of trauma haemorrhage. The findings have had important therapeutic implications, which have led to important changes in practice that have been incorporated into new national and international guidelines.


The National Institute for Health Research Programme Grants for Applied Research programme.


About the Series

Programme Grants for Applied Research
ISSN (Print): 2050-4322
ISSN (Electronic): 2050-4330

Article history

The research reported in this issue of the journal was funded by PGfAR as project number RP-PG-0407-10036 . The contractual start date was in July 2008. The final report began editorial review in August 2014 and was accepted for publication in June 2017. As the funder, the PGfAR programme agreed the research questions and study designs in advance with the investigators. The authors have been wholly responsible for all data collection, analysis and interpretation, and for writing up their work. The PGfAR editors and production house have tried to ensure the accuracy of the authors’ report and would like to thank the reviewers for their constructive comments on the final report document. However, they do not accept liability for damages or losses arising from material published in this report.

Declared competing interests of authors

Karim Brohi reports that TEM Innovations GmbH (ROTEM®) provided unrestricted support to the programme in the form of equipment and reagents for the observational study [National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) portfolio ID 5637].

Last reviewed: August 2014; Accepted: June 2017.

Copyright © Queen’s Printer and Controller of HMSO 2017. This work was produced by Brohi et al. under the terms of a commissioning contract issued by the Secretary of State for Health. This issue may be freely reproduced for the purposes of private research and study and extracts (or indeed, the full report) may be included in professional journals provided that suitable acknowledgement is made and the reproduction is not associated with any form of advertising. Applications for commercial reproduction should be addressed to: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK.

Included under terms of UK Non-commercial Government License.

Bookshelf ID: NBK464933PMID: 29188703DOI: 10.3310/pgfar05190


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