BACKGROUND: Some hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOCs) improve outcome in animal models of hemorrhagic shock (HS) in comparison with standard asanguinous resuscitation fluids. Nevertheless, concern about intrinsic vasoactivity, linked in part to low-molecular weight (MW) hemoglobin (Hb), has slowed HBOC development. We assessed the impact of decreasing the low-MW Hb component of bovine HBOC on vasoactivity in severe HS. METHODS: Anesthetized invasively monitored swine were hemorrhaged 55% blood volume and resuscitated with bovine HBOC containing 31% (31 TD [HBOC-301]), 2% (2 TD [HBOC-201]), or 0.4% (0.4 TD) low-MW Hb. Pigs received four 10 mL/kg infusions over 60 minutes, hospital arrival was simulated at 75 minutes, organ blood flow (BF) was evaluated by microsphere injection, and monitoring was continued for 4 hours followed by complete necrotic evaluation. RESULTS: There were few differences between 2 TD and 0.4 TD. Thirty-one TD pigs had higher systemic and pulmonary blood pressure (BP), systemic vascular resistance index, and pulmonary artery wedge pressure, compared with 2 TD or 0.4 TD (p < 0.01); however, pigs in all groups had at least mildly elevated BP. Transcutaneous tissue oxygenation, base excess, and mixed venous oxygen saturation were similar across groups; lactate and methemoglobin were highest with 0.4 TD (p < 0.03). There were no group differences in BF. Over time, myocardial BF increased and hepatic BF decreased in all groups (for 31 TD, p < 0.05); renal BF was unchanged in all groups. There were no group differences in heart, lung, or liver histopathology, and survival. CONCLUSIONS: Although purification from 31% to 2% low-MW Hb content significantly decreased vasoactive responses, further purification to 0.4% had no additional clinically measurable effects in severe HS. If further diminution in HBOC vasoactivity is desired for use in HS, additional technical approaches may be required. © 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.