Maternal body weight and estimated circulating blood volume:a review and practical nonlinear approach

Kennedy, Helen and Haynes, Sarah L and Shelton, Clifford L (2022) Maternal body weight and estimated circulating blood volume:a review and practical nonlinear approach. British Journal of Anaesthesia, 129 (5). pp. 716-725. ISSN 0007-0912

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Postpartum haemorrhage continues to be a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the obstetric population worldwide, especially in patients at extremes of body weight. Quantification of blood loss has been considered extensively in the literature. However, these volumes must be contextualised to appreciate the consequences of blood loss for individual parturients. Knowledge of a patient's peripartum circulating blood volume is essential to allow accurate interpretation of the significance of haemorrhage and appropriate resuscitation. Greater body weight in obesity can lead to overestimation of blood volume, resulting in inappropriately high thresholds for blood product transfusion and delays in treatment. The most recent Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the UK (MBRRACE-UK) surveillance report demonstrated the risk to this population, with more than half of all maternal mortality recorded in parturients who were either overweight or obese. Current linear calculations used to estimate circulating blood volumes based on patients' weights could be contributing to this phenomenon, as blood volume increases at a disproportional rate to body composition. In this review, we summarise the relevant physiology and explore the existing literature on the estimation of circulating blood volume, both during pregnancy and in obesity. Building on key works and principal findings, we present a practical, nonlinear approach to the adjustment of estimated blood volume with increasing body mass. This clinical tool aims to reduce the clinical bias influencing the management of obstetric haemorrhage in a population already at increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Discussion of the limitations of this approach and the call for further research within this field completes this review. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2022 British Journal of Anaesthesia. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.]

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Journal Article
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British Journal of Anaesthesia
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14 Apr 2023 12:45
Last Modified:
24 Sep 2023 00:35