Viscosity Enhancers Curb Bleeding Complications

TUESDAY April 29, 2008 -- Viscosity enhancers that thicken the blood are highly effective in treating severe bleeding, according to a study by University of California, San Diego, bioengineering researchers.

Currently, intravenous administration of isotonic fluids is the standard emergency treatment for patients with severe bleeding. Previous research has shown that intravenous fluids eight times saltier than normal saline may be beneficial. Building on that research, the UCSD team combined hypertonic saline with viscosity enhancers that thicken blood.

They found this approach resulted in dramatic increases in beneficial blood flow in the small blood vessels of hamsters who'd lost as much as half of their blood. The combined hypertonic saline and viscosity enhancement significantly improved the hamsters' functional capillary density, a key measure of healthy blood flow through tissues and organs.

The findings were published online in the journal Resuscitation.

"Of course, trauma physicians want to get the blood flowing as soon as possible, and increasing the viscosity of blood may not make any sense to them," team leader Marcos Intaglietta, a professor of bioengineering, said in a prepared statement.

"However, our results are highly suggestive that increasing viscosity and partially restoring blood volume is a better way to increase blood flow through tissues. These findings also are consistent with recent discoveries showing that higher shear forces of more viscous blood leads to dilation of small blood vessels," Intaglietta said.

Severe blood loss can lead to a dangerous condition called hypovolemic shock, which is one of the main causes of death in trauma patients. Trauma is the leading cause of death among North Americans aged 1 to 44, according to background information in a news release about the study. A loss of 40 percent or more of a patient's blood is immediately life-threatening, which means quick action has to be taken by emergency workers and physicians.

More information

The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia has more about bleeding.

Posted: April 2008


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