BACKGROUND: After the application of high volumes of high-molecular- weight starch (hetastarch), bleeding complications have repeatedly been observed. Later studies showed that the application of medium-molecular- weight starch led to far fewer disturbances of the blood coagulation system. However, the relationships among the degree of hydroxyethyl substitution, the rate of degradation, and the average in vivo molecular weight have not been investigated.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: A 10-day hemodilution treatment (n = 20) was carried out using two medium-molecular-weight hydroxyethyl starches (HES) with a degree of hydroxyethyl substitution of 0.5 and 0.62, respectively (10% HES 200 was used for a substitution of 0.5 and 6% HES 200 for a substitution of 0.62). After a loading dose of 500 mL was administered, 1000 mL of HES was infused daily for 4 days, and then 500 mL was infused daily for 6 days.
RESULTS: The more highly substituted starch was broken down more slowly and eliminated renally. This resulted in a higher intravascular molecular weight than for the less highly substituted HES (120 vs. 84 kDa) and a greater increase in serum concentration (20.3 vs. 9.0 mg/mL). Initially, the more highly substituted 6-percent HES had a lesser effect on plasma volume (p < 0.01). Because of HES accumulation, there was no longer a significant difference between the starches by the end of treatment, even though a higher dose of the 10-percent low- substitution starch was infused. Six-percent HES caused an increase in plasma viscosity (+9%, p < 0.01) that was due to an accumulation of macromolecules. Ten-percent HES 200/0.5 had no effect on the coagulation system beyond the dilution effect. Six-percent HES, on the other hand, led to an acquired von Willebrand syndrome during the course of the 10-day therapy. Factor VIII function was reduced by 72.2 percent, von Willebrand ristocetin cofactor by 61.3 percent, and von Willebrand factor antigen by 64 percent (p < 0.01).
CONCLUSION: It is the intravascular and not the initial (in vitro) molecular weight that determines the properties of HES. Especially after repeated administration, a high degree of hydroxyethyl substitution leads to an accumulation of macromolecules that affect hemorrheologic measures and the coagulation system just as adversely as high-molecular-weight starch does. Depending on the degree of substitution, medium-molecular- weight starches can have widely differing properties.