Air Methods has announced that two of its air ambulances in the USA – AirLife Utah and Black Hills Life Flight – will now carry whole blood onboard its aircraft.
Every unit of whole blood provides red blood cells, platelets, plasma, and clotting factors for superior outcomes for patients suffering from trauma or hemorrhagic shock. It is particularly valuable in rural areas where there may be limited access to donated blood.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons found that whole blood transfusions improve the 30-day survival rate of patients suffering from hemorrhagic shock by 60 per cent. The earlier patients receive whole blood, the better their outcomes, showing the significance of pre-hospital transfusion. Moderately to severely injured patients, including those with head injuries, particularly benefit from whole blood transfusions.
AirLife Utah and Black Hills Life Flight will carry their own blood supplies, meaning its clinicians can administer it in-flight while preserving the receiving hospital’s stock.
The air ambulance service will have whole blood aboard its AS350 helicopter.
“Having whole blood onboard means the people of our community have access to critical lifesaving interventions in trauma scenarios,” said Cody Allen, Flight Paramedic with AirLife Utah. “This is ideal for the type of injuries we see due to the outdoor nature of our area and state as a whole. We can administer this resource immediately at the scene, then the patient can be flown directly to a higher-level trauma center for definitive surgery and further long-term care.”
Black Hills Life Flight
“For flight team members like me who respond to scene calls and rural hospitals, the ability to carry whole blood is a game changer,” said Jennifer Zettl, a Flight Nurse with Black Hills Life Flight. “Many small hospitals only carry one or two units of packed red blood cells and frequently do not have access to plasma, cryoprecipitate, or platelets. Being able to arrive with whole blood can be the difference between life and death.”
Zettl described a recent experience when she arrived at a rural hospital to transport a patient with a condition that easily leads to hemorrhagic shock. The hospital staff had already transfused the three units of packed red blood cells they had on hand. The doctor was relieved to hear the crew had whole blood onboard their aircraft. The clinicians administered it in flight through their warmer, and by the time they arrived at the receiving medical facility the patient was much improved.