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1. Therapeutic anticoagulation preoperatively and postoperatively is becoming increasingly more common. The patient’s risk of intraoperative and postoperative bleeding should guide the need for reversal of anticoagulation therapy preoperatively and the timing of its reinstatement postoperatively.

2. The need for massive transfusion should be anticipated and guidelines should be in place to provide the simultaneous administration of blood, plasma, and platelets.

3. The acute coagulopathy of trauma results from a combination of activation of protein C and fibrinolysis. It is distinct from disseminated intravascular coagulation, is present on arrival to the emergency department, and is associated with an increase in mortality.

Hemostasis is a complex process whose function is to limit blood loss from an injured vessel. Four major physiologic events participate in the hemostatic process: vascular constriction, platelet plug formation, fibrin formation, and fibrinolysis. Although each tends to be activated in order, the four processes are interrelated so that there is a continuum and multiple reinforcements. The process is shown schematically in Fig. 4-1.

Fig. 4-1.

Biology of hemostasis. The four physiologic processes that interrelate to limit blood loss from an injured vessel are illustrated and include vascular constriction, platelet plug formation, fibrin clot formation, and fibrinolysis.

Vascular Constriction

Vascular constriction is the initial response to vessel injury. It is more pronounced in vessels with medial smooth muscles and is dependent on local contraction of smooth muscle. Vasoconstriction is subsequently linked to platelet plug formation. Thromboxane A2 (TXA2) is produced locally at the site of injury via the release of arachidonic acid from platelet membranes and is a potent constrictor of smooth muscle. Similarly, endothelin synthesized by injured endothelium and serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) released during platelet aggregation are potent vasoconstrictors. Lastly, bradykinin and fibrinopeptides, which are involved in the coagulation scheme, also are capable of contracting vascular smooth muscle. The extent of vasoconstriction varies with the degree of vessel injury. A small artery with a lateral incision may remain open due to physical forces, whereas a similarly sized vessel that is completely transected may contract to the extent that bleeding ceases spontaneously.

Platelet Function

Platelets are anucleate fragments of megakaryocytes. The normal circulating number of platelets ranges between 150,000 and 400,000/μL. Up to 30% of circulating platelets may be sequestered in the spleen. If not consumed in a clotting reaction, platelets are normally removed by the spleen and have an average life span of 7 to 10 days.

Platelets play an integral role in hemostasis by forming a hemostatic plug and by contributing to thrombin formation (Fig. 4-2). Platelets do not normally adhere to each other or to the vessel wall but can form a plug that aids in cessation of bleeding when vascular disruption occurs. Injury to the ...

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