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Am J Emerg Med. 1995 Nov;13(6):619-22.

Correlation of serial blood lactate levels to organ failure and mortality after trauma.

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Department of Intensive Care, Erasme Hospital, Free University of Brussels, Belgium.


To define the value of serial measurements of blood lactate levels after trauma, the present study investigated the correlation between blood lactate, mortality, and organ failure in 129 trauma patients, including 100 intensive care unit (ICU) survivors and 29 ICU fatalities. On admission, injury severity score (ISS) was higher and Glasgow coma score (GCS), revised trauma score (RTS), and trauma revised ISS (TRISS) were lower in the nonsurvivors than in the survivors. Serial arterial blood lactate levels were measured on admission and at least three times a day until normalization. Both initial lactate and highest lactate levels were higher in the nonsurvivors than in the survivors. Organ failure developed in 84 (65%) of the 129 patients. Patients with organ failure had significantly lower RTS and TRISS. Initial lactate and highest lactate levels were significantly higher in patients with organ failure than without organ failure (3.4 [0.7 to 12.7] versus 2.4 [0.4 to 7.6] mEq/L and 4.1 [0.7 to 12.7] versus 2.8 [0.4 to 8.9] mEq/L, respectively, both P < .01). The duration of hyperlactatemia averaged 2.2 days in the former but 1.0 day in the latter patients (P < .01). The data therefore indicate that not only the initial or the highest lactate value but also the duration of hyperlactatemia can be correlated with the development of organ failure. These observations stress the importance of the initial resuscitation in the prevention of organ failure. Serial blood lactate measurements are reliable indicators of morbidity and mortality after trauma.

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