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To compare the effects of different colloid plasma substitutes on blood coagulation and postoperative blood loss.Relevant studies were obtained from the medical literature.Articles were selected that provided data on the effects of colloids on hemostasis and postoperative blood loss in humans. Studies comparing different colloids were looked for using MEDLINE and by searching through the references of studies as they were collected.Articles were reviewed and relevant data were extracted and partly presented in comparative tables.Dextran, gelatin, and hydroxyethyl starch (HES) all can induce a specific decrease of von Willebrand factor and factor VIII:c. Blood coagulation is most impaired by dextran and high molecular weight HES, both associated with increased postoperative blood loss. The effects of HES on blood coagulation have been shown to depend on its molecular weight and rate of elimination. Detrimental effects have been shown for high molecular weight HES. Medium molecular weight (MMW)-HES with a high degree of substitution (HES 200/0.62) and MMW-HES with high C2/C6 hydroxyethylation ratio (HES 200/0.5/13) are slowly degradable and have been shown to impair blood coagulation after repeated administration. Rapidly degradable HES 200/0.5/6 and gelatin-based plasma expanders appear not to impair hemostasis. However, based on the reviewed literature, all artificial colloids could potentially induce increased bleeding tendency after infusion of very large volumes and especially when given to patients with even mild forms of von Willebrand disease. In those circumstances, crystalloid solutions or alternatives such as plasma or albumin, although associated with other serious complications, could be considered.