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Medications and Drugs

Brand Names: Hespan, Hextend

Generic Name: hetastarch (Pronunciation: HET a starch)

What is hetastarch (Hespan, Hextend)?

Hetastarch (hydroxyethyl) is a plasma volume expander derived from natural sources of starch. It works by restoring blood plasma lost through severe bleeding.

Severe blood loss can decrease oxygen levels, which can lead to organ failure, brain damage, coma, and possibly death. Plasma is needed to circulate red blood cells that deliver oxygen throughout the body.

Hetastarch is used to treat hypovolemia (a decrease in the volume of circulating blood plasma), that can result from severe blood loss after surgery, injury, or other causes of bleeding.

Hetastarch also contains electrolytes (sodium, calcium potassium, magnesium) which are minerals essential for many functions in the body, including the brain and nervous system, heartbeat, and fluid balance.

Hetastarch may also be used for other purposes not listed in this medication guide.

What are the possible side effects of hetastarch (Hespan, Hextend)?

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Tell your caregivers at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • chest pain, fast or slow heart rate;
  • wheezing or gasping for breath, sweating, and anxiety;
  • feeling like you might pass out;
  • weak pulse, slow breathing (breathing may stop);
  • pale skin, easy bruising, weakness, blood in your urine or stools;
  • unusual bleeding, or any bleeding that will not stop;
  • unusual headache, vision or speech problems, mental changes, drooping eyelids, loss of feeling in your face, tremors, or trouble swallowing;
  • swelling in your hands or feet; or
  • fever, sore throat, and headache with a severe blistering, peeling, and red skin rash.

Rare but serious side effects may include:

  • unusual headache, vision or speech problems, mental changes;
  • drooping eyelids, loss of feeling in your face, tremors, or trouble swallowing; or
  • fever, sore throat, and headache with a severe blistering, peeling, and red skin rash.

Less serious side effects may include:

  • mild itching or skin rash;
  • cough or sneezing;
  • warmth, redness, or tingly feeling under your skin;
  • vomiting;
  • swollen glands;
  • headache;
  • muscle pain; or
  • flu symptoms.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Tell your doctor about any unusual or bothersome side effect. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What is the most important information I should know about hetastarch (Hespan, Hextend)?

You should not be given this medication if you are allergic to hetastarch, or if you have a bleeding or blood clotting disorder, congestive heart failure, urination problems not caused by hypovolemia, or lactic acidosis.

Before you receive hetastarch, tell your doctor if you have kidney or liver disease, heart disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, or an electrolyte imbalance.

Tell your doctor about all other medications you use, especially a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin), steroid medications, digoxin (digitalis, Lanoxin), or a diuretic (water pill).

Tell your caregivers at once if you have a serious side effect such as chest pain, fast or slow heart rate, wheezing or gasping for breath, feeling like you might pass out, weak pulse, slow breathing (breathing may stop), pale skin, easy bruising, blood in your urine or stools, swelling in your hands or feet, unusual bleeding, or any bleeding that will not stop.

Rare but serious side effects may include unusual headache, vision or speech problems, mental changes, drooping eyelids, loss of feeling in your face, tremors, or trouble swallowing, or fever, sore throat, and headache with a severe blistering, peeling, and red skin rash.



Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

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