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Low-volume fluid resuscitation for presumed hemorrhagic shock: helpful or harmful?

For the past 4 decades, the standard approach to the trauma victim who is hypotensive from presumed hemorrhage has been to infuse large volumes of fluids as early and as rapidly as possible. The goals of this treatment strategy are rapid restoration of intravascular volume and vital signs towards normal, and maintenance of vital organ perfusion. The most recent laboratory studies and the only clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of these guidelines however, suggest that in the setting of uncontrolled hemorrhage, today's practice of aggressive fluid resuscitation may be harmful, resulting in increased hemorrhage volume and subsequently greater mortality. This has been demonstrated in animal models representative of penetrating trauma as well as those representative of blunt trauma. The data strongly suggest that limited or hypotensive resuscitation may be preferable for the trauma victim with the potential for ongoing uncontrolled hemorrhage. Limited resuscitation provides a mechanism of avoiding the detrimental effects associated with early aggressive resuscitation, while maintaining a level of tissue perfusion that although decreased from the normal physiologic range is adequate for short periods. Large randomized clinical trials are necessary to confirm this new laboratory data. Future research should focus on developing resuscitation methods that may actually enhance tissue perfusion during limited resuscitation and therefore offset its potential detrimental effects.

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