We investigated the effect of intravenous tranexamic acid on hydroxyethyl starch (HES)-induced clot strength impairment after cardiac surgery. Patients were randomized to receive either 1 g tranexamic acid or the same volume of 0.9% saline after administration of 15 ml/kg of 6% HES (molecular weight, 200 kDa; degree of substitution, 0.5) in the immediate postoperative period. Modified thromboelastometry (ROTEM) using different activators [intrinsic ROTEM (InTEM), extrinsic ROTEM (ExTEM), fibrinogen ROTEM (FibTEM)] was carried out to evaluate clot formation and lysis. The clot formation time was prolonged, and the maximum clot firmness (MCF) and shear elastic modulus [G = 5000 x MCF / (100-MCF), dynes/cm(2)] decreased (all activators of ROTEM) after completion of HES (P < 0.001, two-factor analysis of variance). These abnormalities in blood coagulation persisted despite tranexamic acid. Maximal lysis (FibTEM), indicative of fibrinolytic activity, was increased after HES but no effect of tranexamic acid was observed. The cumulative chest tube drainage until the first postoperative morning was not different between the groups (1008 +/- 251 and 1081 +/- 654 ml, P = 0.698, respectively). We conclude that after cardiopulmonary bypass, HES-induced impairment in clot formation and strength, or increased fibrinolytic capacity, is not reversed by the administration of tranexamic acid.