London’s Air Ambulance introduces on-board blood transfusion

On March 2012, London’s Air Ambulance introduced pre-hospital blood transfusion.During the first 12 months of this innovation, the service has delivered over 100 pre-hospital transfusions.

London’s Air Ambulance responds to severely injured patients within the greater London area. The physician paramedic team attends over 2000 mission per year using an aircraft and rapid response vehicles.

Within this population, approximately 200 patients per year are dying from serious blood loss and a percentage of this group die before reaching hospital.

For medical teams like those provided by London’s Air Ambulance, the ability to give a pre-hospital blood transfusion to patients who are also hypovolaemic, will increase the survival rate from this procedure.

London’s Air Ambulance has already seen patients resuscitated successfully using these techniques.

There is strict legislation and extensive guidance on blood transfusion to ensure that patients are protected from transfusion errors and that products are not wasted or used inappropriately.

A standard operating procedure for pre-hospital blood transfusion ensures that all personnel understand the requirements and responsibilities which are associated with the administration of blood.

Since London’s Air Ambulance introduced pre-hospital blood transfusion other air ambulances have followed its lead, including teams from Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust.

Dr Anne Weaver, lead clinician at London’s Air Ambulance and emergency medicine consultant at Barts Heath NHS Trust, said: ‘We were confident that carrying blood would make a big difference to our patients but it has exceeded our expectations. Our team continually push the boundaries in medicine to save lives. London’s Air Ambulance also pioneered pre-hospital roadside open-heart surgery and we have the world’s highest survival rates from this procedure.’

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 25 June 2013.

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