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Chappell, Daniel; Jacob, Matthias: Hydroxyethyl starch - the importance of being earnest. In: Scandinavian Journal of Trauma Resuscitation & Emergency Medicine 2013, 21:61




Despite ongoing controversial expert discussions the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recently recommended to suspend marketing authorisations for hydroxyethyl starch. This comment critically evaluates the line of arguments. Basically, the only indication for a colloid is intravascular hypovolemia. Crystalloid use appears reasonable to compensate ongoing extracellular losses beyond. In the hemodynamically instable patient this leads to the distinction between an initial resuscitation phase where colloids might be indicated and a crystalloidal maintenance phase thereafter. It is important to bear this in mind when reevaluating the studies the EMA referred to in the context of its recent decision: i) VISEP compared ringer's lactate to 10\% HES 200/0.5 in septic patients and found an increased incidence of renal failure in HES receivers. Unfortunately, study treatment was started only after initial stabilization with HES, randomizing hemodynamically stable patients into a rational (crystalloids) and an irrational (high dose starch until ICU discharge) maintenance treatment. ii) 6S compared ringer's acetate to 6\% HES 130/0.42 for fluid resuscitation in septic patients and found an increased need of renal replacement therapy and a higher mortality in the HES group. However, patients of both groups were again randomized only after initial stabilization with colloids, the actual comparison was, therefore, again rational vs. irrational. Beyond that, the documentation is partly fragmentary, leaving many important questions around the fate of the patients unanswered. iii) CHEST randomized ICU patients to receive saline or 6\% HES 130/0.4 for fluid resuscitation. Actually, despite partly discussed in a different way, this trial showed no relevant differences in outcome. In all, two studies showed what happens to septic patients if starches are used in a way we do not observe in daily practice. The third one actually proves their safety. The benefit of perioperative goal-directed preload optimization using starches is unquestioned. Taking these informations into account, the recommendation of the EMA starches to be generally dangerous remains mysterious and incomprehensible. An authority being able to dictate behavior should stand clear from oppressively ending a worldwide expert discussion and step back into the role of the observer until science achieves an agreement.