UPMC Doctors Awarded $12 Million Grant for Early-Intervention Hemorrhagic Shock Trial 

By: Sierra Lomax

A team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC was recently awarded a grant from the Linking Investigators in Trauma and Emergency Services (LITES) Network, totaling over $12 million to expand its groundbreaking research on improving care for hemorrhagic shock. The LITES Network is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and is designed to bring treatments for trauma and hemorrhage to pre-hospital providers. The Pitt/UPMC team is comprised of researchers, educators, and paramedics, led by Drs. Frank Guyette, Jason Sperry and Steve Wisniewski. 

Dr. Frank Guyette

The 5-year multi-site study will examine the effects of providing calcium in a pre-hospital setting to patients with traumatic injuries and shock. It will also examine the effects of vasopressin, a drug used to regulate blood pressure once the patient arrives to the trauma center.  

“When we give people blood that is stored, that blood needs to have a preservative agent. That agent is usually citrate. Citrate is safe and it stops blood from clotting in the bag, but it can also bind the calcium in a patient’s body as well,” said Guyette, professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. 

When someone experiences a traumatic injury, they tend to lose blood rapidly along with calcium, an important body nutrient. Patients may receive a blood transfusion, but without calcium, they can experience negative effects like losing the ability for smooth muscle contraction and clotting.  

The study also will examine the effects of the drug vasopressin as compared to standard care. It will be administered once a patient is in a hospital setting and in need of surgery. After experiencing an injury, the main goal is to control and slow down the bleeding. Vasopressin can raise a patient’s blood pressure and can constrict blood vessels, which is a way to stop excessive bleeding and save lives.  

Dr. Jason Sperry

“Blood loss complications from a traumatic injury are a leading killer in the U.S. and we have made improvements in blood transfusions and how we treat the trauma patient,” said Sperry, professor of surgery and critical care at Pitt. “Despite those improvements, sometimes blood products are not available. With this trial, we are looking for additional therapies that may provide survival benefit.” 

The patients will be randomized to receive either the interventions or a placebo, but they must meet certain criteria to be eligible to receive either intervention. They must be at risk of hemorrhage shock; their blood pressure reading must be less than 90 with a heart rate greater than 108 or need urgent surgery to control hemorrhage once they arrive at the trauma center.   

“This clinical trial is pending regulatory approval with hopes to begin in the next year,” said Guyette. 

For more information, please visit https://www.litesnetwork.org/