The UK’s The Air Ambulance Service (TAAS) charity, which operates the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance (WNAA) and Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA), has introduced onboard blood and plasma supplies to its helicopters and critical care cars.
Both WNAA and DLRAA vehicles will be equipped to carry packed O negative red blood cells (pRBC) and Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP). There will be a 24-hour rotation whereby blood products and unused blood and plasma that are not used are returned to the blood bank for use by hospital patients to reduce waste.
The new equipment will enable medical crews from both services to perform prehospital emergency blood transfusions on patients who are suffering from catastrophic, life-threatening bleeding due to severe injuries and other medical conditions.
“For the bleeding patient, blood transfusion is one part of a package of critical care that is provided by our teams to bring advanced resuscitation earlier in the patient’s care before they arrive at hospital, giving them the best chance of survival,” explained TAAS Deputy Clinical Lead and University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) Consultant Dr Caroline Leech.
The result of 18 months of collaboration with local blood transfusion groups
The new facilities are the result of 18 months of collaboration between the charity and several local blood transfusion organizations, including the UHCW NHS Trust and Nottingham University Hospital (NUH) blood transfusion laboratories and the Warwickshire & Solihull and Leicestershire & Rutland Blood Bikes.
Nottingham Hospitals Charity has also donated a grant to help the charity fund a blood fridge and blood plasma freezer at their hospital site.
TAAS says that the new equipment will provide a substantial boost its service, noting that the majority of incidents which it has attended to over the past 19 years of its operation have been road traffic collisions. In addition, knife crime throughout parts of its operational area has also reportedly increased.
“With data from UHCW showing that two-thirds of their major trauma patients who required emergency blood transfusion were treated and transported by TAAS, it has shown there may be a potential benefit in bringing blood to the patient earlier. All our doctors and critical care paramedics have received comprehensive training alongside enhanced procedures to be able to deliver the intervention efficiently at scene,” Leech added.
Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance to use arterial blood pressure monitors
The Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance (KSS) has also announced the introduction of new arterial blood pressure monitoring equipment onboard its helicopter and rapid response car fleets.
The new equipment, which involves the insertion of a line into an artery rather than a traditional cuff on the arm, allows medics to obtain a patient’s blood pressure reading every heartbeat, rather than every two minutes.
This is expected to substantially improve medics’ response to changing patient conditions, enabling them to more accurately adjust blood pressure to ensure blood and oxygen reach the vital organs.
The new arterial blood pressure monitors are expected to be particularly critical for patients with head injuries, offering more opportunities to reduce chances of secondary brain injury.
Dr Duncan Bootland, Medical Director at KSS, speaking to ITV News, said: “This is a major enhancement in monitoring blood pressure more accurately. In patients with head injuries who need a general anaesthetic, controlling blood pressure is known to be important, and we also know that monitoring blood pressure with a blood pressure cuff is not perfectly accurate and is more difficult in the pre-hospital environment due to movement of the patient.”