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Background: Resuscitation with oxygen-carrying fluids is critically important in the patient with hemorrhagic shock caused by trauma. However, it is clear that a number of biologic mediators present in stored blood (packed red blood cells [PRBCs]) have the potential to exacerbate early postinjury hyperinflammation and multiple organ failure through priming of circulating neutrophils (PMNs). PolyHeme (Northfield Laboratories, Evanston, IL), a hemoglobin-based substitute that is free of priming agents, provides an alternative. We hypothesized that PMN priming would be attenuated in patients resuscitated with PolyHeme in lieu of stored blood.

Methods: Injured patients requiring urgent transfusion were given either PolyHeme (up to 20 units) or PRBCs. Early postinjury PMN priming was measured via [beta]-2 integrin expression, superoxide production, and elastase release.

Results: Treatment groups were comparable with respect to extent of injury and early physiologic compromise. PMNs from patients resuscitated with PRBCs showed priming in the early postinjury period by all three measures. No such priming was evident in patients resuscitated with PolyHeme.

Conclusion: The use of a blood substitute in the early postinjury period avoids PMN priming and may thereby provide an avenue to decrease the incidence or severity of postinjury multiple organ failure.

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