Successful outcome from damage control surgery (DCS) depends as much on elements of resuscitation and non-operative management as on details of the procedure itself. The early management of patients in haemorrhagic shock has undergone substantial revision in the past decade and is now known as ‘haemostatic resuscitation’.


An updated literature review describing the anaesthetic and resuscitative management of patients with active, ongoing traumatic haemorrhage was distilled to present the current knowledge of the pathophysiology, recommended treatments and areas of active controversy.


Current practice in military and civilian trauma centres is described, along with the degree of evidence in support of clinical decisions. Resuscitation of patients with ongoing traumatic haemorrhage has changed substantially in the past two decades. Optimal management now includes deliberate hypotension to minimize blood loss, early use of blood products (especially plasma) and administration of antifibrinolytic therapy. Areas of debate include the role of clotting factor concentrates and depth of anaesthesia.


Resuscitation strategies during DCS may be as important as the anatomical repair itself. Recommendations include avoidance of hypothermia, maintenance of a lower than normal blood pressure, and early support of the coagulation system in patients likely to require massive transfusion. Controversies include the optimal ratio of plasma to red blood cells for empirical resuscitation, the ideal role of clotting factor concentrates, and the potential benefit of early, deep anaesthesia. Future research will centre on the complex interaction between the humoral elements of coagulation and the vascular endothelium that regulates perfusion, clotting and integrity of the circulation. Copyright © 2011 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.