Tag Archives: Massive transfusion

Liquid Plasma vs FFP: Definitions

I’ll spend the next few days discussing plasma. This is an important component of any trauma center’s massive transfusion protocol (MTP). Coagulopathy is the enemy of any seriously injured patient, and this product is used to attempt to fix that problem.

And now there are two flavors available: liquid plasma and fresh frozen plasma. But there is often confusion when discussing these products, especially when there are really three flavors! Let’s review what they are exactly, how they are similar, and how they differ.

Fresh frozen plasma (FFP)
This is plasma that is separated from donated whole blood. It is generally frozen within 8 hours, and is called FFP. However, in some cases it may not be frozen for a few more hours (not to exceed 24 hours total) and in that case, is called FP24 or FP. It is functionally identical to FFP. But note that the first “F” is missing. Since it has gone beyond the 8 hour mark, it is no longer considered “fresh.” To be useful in your MTP, it must be thawed, and this takes 20-40 minutes, depending on technique.

Thawed plasma
Take a frozen unit of FFP or FP, thaw, and keep it in the refrigerator. Readily available, right? However, the clock begins ticking until this unit expires after 5 days. Many hospital blood banks keep this product available for the massive transfusion protocol, especially if other hospital services are busy enough to use it if it is getting close to expiration. Waste is bad, and expensive!

Liquid plasma (never frozen)
This is prepared by taking the plasma that was separated from the donated blood and putting it in the refrigerator, not the freezer. It’s shelf life is that of the unit of whole blood it was taken from (21 days), plus another 5, for a total of 26 days. This product used to be a rarity, but is becoming more common because of its longer shelf life compared to thawed plasma.

Finally, a word on plasma compatibility. ABO compatibility is still a concern, but Rh is not. There are no red cells in the plasma to carry any of the antigens. However, plasma is loaded with A and/or B antibodies based on the donor’s blood type. So the compatibility chart is reversed compared to what you are accustomed to when giving red cells.

Remember, you are delivering antibodies with plasma and not antigens. So a Type A donor will have only Type B antibodies floating around in their plasma. This makes it incompatible with people with blood types B or AB.

Type O red cells are the universal donor type because the cells have no antigens on the surface. Since Type AB donors have both antigens on their red cells, they have no antibodies in their plasma. This makes AB plasma is the universal donor type. Weird, huh? Here’s a compatibility chart for plasma.

Next time, I’ll discuss the virtues of the various types of plasma when used for massive transfusion in trauma.

EAST 2018 #8: 4-Factor PCC Plus Plasma. What?

Many trauma centers have moved toward reversing warfarin with prothrombin complex concentrate (PCC) in place of plasma due to the speed and low volume of infusate with the former. In the US, 3-factor PCC was approved by the FDA first, but it has a lower Factor VII content. This usually required infusion of plasma anyway to make up the Factor VII, so what was the point (although there was some debate on this)?

Then 4-factor PCC was approved, and it alone could be used for warfarin reversal. But so far, PCC has not been routinely used for reversal of coagulopathy from trauma. We still rely on plasma infusion for this. The abstract I am discussing today compares reversal with 4-factor PCC alone to reversal with 4-factor PCC and plasma in coagulopathic patients.

This study retrospectively reviewed adult patients who received one of the above treatments over a 3 year period. Patient who were on oral anticoagulants were excluded. The goal INR was 1.5, and time to correction and number of PRBC transfused were measured.

Here are the factoids:

  • There were 516 patients who met criteria, but only 80 FFP patients and 40 PCC+FFP patients were analyzed
  • Patients were an average of 58 years old, had an ISS of 29, and 87% had sustained blunt injury
  • PCC+FFP resulted in faster correction of INR (373 min vs 955 min)
  • PCC+FFP received fewer units of PRBC (7 vs 9 units) and FFP (5 vs 7 units)
  • Mortality rate was lower in the PCC+FFP group (25% vs 33%)
  • There was no difference in thrombotic complications

Bottom line: Well, this is an interesting start. I think this abstract suggests that we should incorporate giving 4-factor PCC into the massive transfusion protocol to try to reduce the INR faster. However, the patient numbers are low and several of the results are only weakly significant (units transfused, mortality, p=0.04). Some additional confirmative studies will be needed before this is ready for prime time!

Here are some questions for the authors to consider before their presentation:

  • Why did your study group drop from 516 to 120? What impact might this have had on you analyses?
  • Did you look at the correction times stratified by initial INR? Severely coagulopathic patients could skew the numbers, especially if they were predominantly in only one of the study groups.
  • It did not look like the patients received much PRBC or plasma (<10 units of each). How injured / coagulopathic were they?
  • The mortality rates are rather high for an average ISS of 29. Did you analyze to see what impact ISS had on mortality? Could this have influenced your analysis?
  • Big picture question: Should we consider routinely giving PCC as part of the massive transfusion protocol in patients who are known to be coagulopathic? Based on the graph, it looks like patients will need more than a single dose. Reversal time was still very long for PCC+FFP.

Thanks for an intriguing abstract!

Reference: EAST 2018 Podium paper #12.

How To Remember To Give The TXA!

The CRASH-2 study did a good job of demonstrating the value of giving tranexamic acid (TXA) in patients with major hemorrhage. The kicker is that the data seemed to show that the effect was best if given early, and might even be detrimental after 3 hours.

The reality is that most patients with major hemorrhage will present as a trauma activation. And if they really are bleeding badly, they will probably trigger your massive transfusion protocol (MTP). But at the same time, they will probably keep you very busy, and it’s easy to forget to order the TXA.

How can you make sure to start the TXA promptly on these patients? Easy! Check out this picture:

Yes, that’s a cheat sign right on top of the first cooler for the MTP! Have the blood bank include this sign in the cooler, so that everyone can see it when you crack the cooler open to give the first units of blood products.

In most hospitals, TXA is a pharmacy item. It should be stocked in the ED, and not in a far away pharmacy satellite. And don’t forget that TXA is given twice, 1 gram given over 10 minutes (or just IV push for speed), followed by another gram infused over 8 hours.

Related posts:

ABC: A Quick & Dirty Way to Predict Massive Transfusion

It’s nice to have blood available early when major trauma patients need it. Unfortunately, it’s not very practical to have several units of O neg pulled for every trauma activation, let alone activate a full-blown massive transfusion protocol (MTP). Is there any way to predict which trauma patient might be in need of enough blood to trigger your MTP?

The Mayo Clinic presented a paper at the EAST Annual Meeting a few years ago that looked at several prediction systems and how they fared in predicting the need for massive transfusion. Two of the three systems (TASH – Trauma Associated Severe Hemorrhage, McLaughlin score) are too complicated for practical use. The Assessment of Blood Consumption tool is simple, and it turns out to be quite predictive.

Here’s how it works. Assess 1 point for each of the following:

  • Heart rate > 120
  • Systolic blood pressure < 90
  • FAST positive
  • Penetrating mechanism

A score >=2 is predictive of massive transfusion. In this small series, the sensitivity of ABC was 89% and the specificity was 85%. The overtriage rate was only 13%.

The investigators were satisfied enough with this tool that it is now being used to activate the massive transfusion protocol at the Mayo Clinic. Although the abstract is no longer available online, it appears to be remarkably similar to a paper published in 2009 from Vanderbilt that looks at the exact same scoring systems. Perhaps this is why it never saw print? But the results were the same with a sensitivity of 75% and a specificity of 86%.

Here’s a summary of the number of parameters vs the likelihood the MTP would be activated:

ABC Score         % requiring massive transfusion
0                                1%
1                               10%
2                               41%
3                               48%
4                             100%

Bottom line: ABC is a simple, easy to use and accurate system for activating your massive transfusion protocol, with a low under- and over-triage rate. It doesn’t need any laboratory tests or fancy equations to calculate it. If two or more of the parameters are positive, be prepared to activate your MTP, or at least call for blood!

Related post:


  • Comparison of massive blood transfusion predictive models: ABC, easy as 1,2,3. Presented at the EAST 24th Annual Scientific Assembly, January 26, 2011, Session I Paper 4. (No longer available online)
  • Early prediction of massive transfusion in trauma: simple as ABC (assessment of blood consumption)? J Trauma 66(2):346-52, 2009.

Is Too Much Crystalloid a Bad Thing?

All trauma centers have massive transfusion protocols, and they typically spell out the approximate ratios of blood to plasma to platelets. But they do not address the use (or overuse) of crystalloid during these large volume resuscitations.

A multicenter, prospective study was carried out looking at the outcomes after resuscitation from hemorrhagic shock using massive transfusion (at least 10u PRBC in 24 hrs). The patients were severely injured (average ISS 34), and overall mortality and incidence of multi-organ failure was 21% and 65%, respectively. The median amount of crystalloid given was 17 liters, and median red cell transfusion was 14 units in 24 hours.

The authors found that if the crystalloid to PRBC ratio exceeded 1.5:1, morbidity increased significantly. The incidence of multiple organ failure doubled, ARDS tripled, and abdominal compartment quintupled! The authors suggested further research, and did not provide specific strategies for decreasing early crystalloid.

Bottom line: As expected, giving so much crystalloid that we turn people into the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man is not good. While waiting for additional research, it is probably prudent to try to rapidly achieve definitive control of bleeding and apply gentle use of pressors to decrease the total crystalloid given during resuscitation.

Reference: The crystalloid / packed red blood cell ratio following massive transfusion: when less is more. Presented at the 24th Annual Scientific Assembly of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, January 2011.