The life-sustaining capacity of human polymerized hemoglobin when red cells might be unavailable

Steven A. Gould, Ernest E. Moore, David B. Hoyt, Paul M. Ness, Edward J. Norris, Jeffrey L. Carson, George A. Hides, Ian H.G. Freeman, Richard DeWoskin, Gerald S. Moss

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184 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Human polymerized hemoglobin (PolyHeme, Northfield Laboratories, Evanston, IL) is a universally compatible, immediately available, disease-free, oxygen-carrying resuscitative fluid being developed as a red cell substitute for use in urgent blood loss. PolyHeme should be particularly useful when red cells may be temporarily unavailable. This article assesses survival at life-threatening RBC hemoglobin concentration ([Hb]) in massively bleeding patients who do not receive red cells. STUDY DESIGN: There were 171 patients who received rapid infusion of 1 to 20 units (1,000 g, 10 L) of PolyHeme in lieu of red cells as initial oxygen-carrying replacement in trauma and urgent surgery. The protocol simulated the unavailability of red cells, and the progressive fall in RBC [Hb] in bleeding patients was quantified. Thirty-day mortality was compared with a historical control group of 300 surgical patients who refused red cells on religious grounds. RESULTS: A total of 171 patients received rapid infusion of 1 to 2 units (n = 45), 3 to 4 units (n = 45), 5 to 9 units (n = 47), or 10 to 20 units (n = 34) of PolyHeme. Forty patients had a nadir RBC [Hb] <3 g/dL (mean, 1.5 ± 0.7 g/dL). But total [Hb] was adequately maintained (mean, 6.8 ± 1.2 g/dL) because of plasma [Hb] added by PolyHeme. The 30-day mortality was 25.0% (10/40 patients) compared with 64.5% (20/31 patients) in historical control patients at these RBC [Hb] levels. CONCLUSIONS: PolyHeme increases survival at life-threatening RBC [Hb] by maintaining total [Hb] in the absence of red cell transfusion. PolyHeme should be useful in the early treatment of urgent blood loss and resolve the dilemma of unavailability of red cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-452
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American College of Surgeons
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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