The London air ambulance service will be the first in the NHS to participate in a new whole blood transfusion trial. In order to improve their chances of survival, the scheme will give some patients platelet transfusions.
Patients in air ambulances and soldiers in need of battlefield transfusions can currently receive plasma and red blood cells but not platelets. Platelets are thought to shorten treatment time and aid in clotting.
The Present Status of Air Ambulances
Platelets are not currently used in air ambulance transfusions due to the difficulty of storing that specific blood component. The trial was created in response to evidence from Army medics working on Afghan battlefields that this type of transfusion could improve survival rates among patients who had suffered major trauma.
Beginning on Thursday, the NHS will put the transfusions to the test across ten UK air ambulance services, with the capital’s air ambulance being the first to use them. The services will compare how whole blood transfusion helps treat patients who have been in a serious accident or injury to standard care.
More About the Trial
According to the NHS Blood and Transplant service, 848 patients will be recruited for the trial over the next two years, with half receiving standard care and the other half receiving whole blood transfusions from donors with O-negative blood, the universal blood type. It went on to say that if the trial was successful, it would affect pre-hospital trauma transfusions and battlefield care.
For more than a century, doctors have known that blood transfusions save lives in patients suffering from life-threatening hemorrhages, but the exact nature and optimal timing of those transfusions are unknown. This study will hopefully determine whether whole blood is superior to current standard care in terms of clinical and financial effectiveness. The research is definitely a worthy one.