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New Air Med Blood Transfusion Capabilities in Texas Can Improve Survival Rates

By S.L. Fuller | January 31, 2018
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Air Evac Lifeteam. Photo from file

Air Evac Lifeteam. Photo from file

BioBridge Global subsidiary South Texas Blood & Tissue Center has enabled its air medical crews to administer special pre-hospital transfusions of whole blood. The center said it joined the Brothers in Arms program, making San Antonio one of the first cities to implement the system.

According to the center, these transfusions are “proven to counter blood loss and dramatically improve survival rates when tested in battlefield situations.” The system is based on a program developed by the U.S. military, the center said, and was later adapted at the Mayo Clinic trauma center.

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“The general mortality rate for critically injured patients requiring massive transfusions at hospital trauma centers is 75%,” said Dr. Donald Jenkins, a former U.S. Air Force officer and the principal architect of the Joint Trauma Theater Trauma System in Iraq and Afghanistan who led research on the subject. “Our battlefield experience showed that providing earlier, pre-hospital transfusions of whole blood, rather than blood components or primarily red blood cells, brought mortality rates down as low as 20%.”

As trauma medical director at the Mayo Clinic, he ushered the program into civilian use.

South Texas Blood & Tissue Center’s new program was created in collaboration with the UT Health Science Center and medical helicopter services Air Evac Lifeteam, PHI Inc., San Antonio AirLIFE, the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council (STRAC), University Health System, the San Antonio Military Medical Center and the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research.

“Implementing this program for civilian use will truly transform how emergency care can be administered on medical helicopters and significantly improve survival rates for trauma victims,” said Elizabeth Waltman, COO of the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. “This is also the first step towards a longer-term solution for saving more lives in mass-casualty situations, especially if we are able to expand the program in the future to include emergency care provided by ambulance services.”

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