REPLACE - Seven Steps to Remember During A Massive Blood Transfusion
Published: 20 June 2016
Published: 20 June 2016
At first thought, this seems like an obvious answer: give blood! However, the amount of blood that a person receives during a massive blood transfusion can cause a set of complications that needs to be addressed concurrently.
To remember the principles involved with managing a patient requiring a massive blood transfusion, remember the acronym REPLACE:
|L||Low temperature management|
Note: A massive blood transfusion can be defined as follows:
The average blood volume is approximately 70 mL/kg for adults of ideal body weight (Red Cross 2020).
Excessive bleeding causes a loss of intravascular volume and circulating haemoglobin, resulting in decreased perfusion of the vital organs. This eventually leads to hypovolaemic shock (Taghavi & Askari 2020).
The general rule of thumb is that intravascular volume should be replaced by what has been lost. In a bleeding patient, we should replace with blood.
A bit of crystalloid filling may be considered in order to dilute the blood and help circulate it around the body, but a 1:1 ratio of blood to crystalloid is no longer advocated due to adverse outcomes such as oedema, compartment syndrome and acute lung injury (NBA 2011).
Attempting to replace the blood that is being lost is futile if the bleeding is not stopped. If the bleeding is external, try to control it by compressing the bleeding site, applying a tourniquet above the bleeding extremity or packing the bleeding wound. If the bleeding is internal, there needs to be an urgent surgical intervention to find the source and control it (ANZCOR 2017).
Adopt the Goldilocks principle here; not too much, not too little…just right! Permissive hypotension of 80-100mmHg systolic is usually recommended until the bleeding has stopped, as adding more force behind the bleed is only going to worsen it (NBA 2011).
Hypothermic people have a slower heart rate, decreased myocardial contractility and impaired uptake of oxygen by the cells, leading to worsening shock. It is easier to keep a patient warm than trying to warm them up. Use a blood warmer to administer the blood where possible and remember to put an active warming blanket on the person, aiming for a temperature of more than 35 degrees celsius (NBA 2011).
Each unit of blood contains approximately 15 mmol of hydrogen ions. As the kidneys are only able to eliminate approximately 1 mmol/kg of hydrogen ions a day, acidosis can occur with massive blood transfusions if the kidneys are unable to keep up with the buffering and removal.
Each unit of blood has a base deficit of 20 mmol/L to 40 mmol/L depending on the age of the bag, with a base deficit reducing the ability of the body to buffer a worsening acidosis. The metabolic acidosis will eventually rectify itself once the bleeding has been stopped.
There are various blood products and adjuncts that can be administered to help slow the bleeding, including:
(NBA 2011; Nickson 2019)
Each unit of blood contains citrate that works to prevent blood clotting by binding to ionised calcium, impeding the clotting cascade significantly. The liver converts citrate to bicarbonate, thereby releasing calcium ions to facilitate the clotting ability of the blood. However, a massive blood transfusion overwhelms this process.
For this reason, calcium needs to be replaced to maintain an ionised calcium level of more than 1.1 mmol/L (NBA 2011).
Joanne Reading is a clinical educator within the 42-bed ICU at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, which also services critically ill patients from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Royal Women’s Hospital. Joanne holds a critical care graduate certificate and a master of health science with a focus on education. She is also the author of her own nursing education website called 'Blogging for your Noggin'. With a special interest in all things cardiac and respiratory. Joanne is passionate about ensuring that education not only fosters critical thinking but is entertaining in the process! See Educator Profile