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BACKGROUND: HES solutions provide a sterile, alternative colloidal fluid to albumin solutions and/or plasma in the management of patients who need plasma volume expansion. Solutions of HES are widely accepted internationally but are used only modestly in the United States, largely because of concerns over hemostasis.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: A randomized, blinded, two-arm trial comparing the hemostatic effects of pentastarch versus hetastarch when infused in the clinically relevant dose of 90 g of HES dissolved in 1.5 L of saline was conducted. Multiple studies of fibrin clot formation, fibrinogen/fibrinolysis, and platelet (PLT) functions were performed before and on multiple occasions for 70 days following HES infusion.

RESULTS: Several significant abnormalities of hemostasis assay results occurred following HES infusions, with hetastarch causing significantly greater abnormalities than pentastarch. Individual clotting proteins and blood PLTs fell modestly because of plasma volume expansion and hemodilution. A fall in excess of that caused by hemodilution was demonstrated for von Willebrand factor antigen plus its associated FVIII and ristocetin cofactor activities. The partial thromboplastin time was prolonged, whereas the thrombin time was shortened. Plt function abnormalities were seen in most subjects to a modest degree. Studies of fibrinolysis were normal.

CONCLUSIONS: Solutions of hetastarch produce significant abnormalities of some hemostasis laboratory results when infused at clinically relevant doses, but it is unlikely that the modest hemostatic abnormalities produced at these doses per se would lead to clinical bleeding. Hetastarch causes greater hemostatic abnormalities than pentastarch, and because both HES solutions have comparable plasma volume-expanding effects, it is reasonable to prefer pentastarch as a plasma volume expander.