SAMJ: South African Medical Journal
On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574
Recent trials have failed to demonstrate a survival benefit from the use of hydroxyethyl starches (HES) as a colloid in fluid resuscitation and have raised concerns of renal harm. In severe sepsis, there is a concerning signal of increased mortality. New high-quality systematic reviews consistently demonstrate a statistically non-significant relative risk of death of 1.08 - 1.10 and a significant 25% increased chance of requiring renal replacement therapy. The HES literature contains many industry-affiliated reviews of indifferent quality. Traditional efficacy confidence limits may warrant re-evaluation when considering these harms. Newer formulations of HES and more focused indications for use show benefit on surrogate endpoints, but these trials are currently underpowered to ensure safety.