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London Air Ambulance switching to new blood-plasma transfusions to reduce deaths on emergency air-lifts

PUBLISHED: 16:00 25 October 2018

Study launched to reduce airlifted trauma patients' mortality rates. Picture source: London Air Ambulance

Study launched to reduce airlifted trauma patients' mortality rates. Picture source: London Air Ambulance

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A landmark study to reduce deaths from catastrophic bleeding has been launched today by London’s Air Ambulance.

Blood-plasma now being carried aboard London's helicopter ambulances. Picture source: London Air AmbulanceBlood-plasma now being carried aboard London's helicopter ambulances. Picture source: London Air Ambulance

The two-year investigation is looking into a new blood product for critical patients suffering major injury who might not survive being air-lifted to the trauma centre at the Royal London Hospital.

The product consists red blood cells and plasma which can be given in a single transfusion to patients at risk of bleeding to death before reaching the hospital.

“We have the potential to save more lives,” Consultant Royal London trauma director Dr Anne Weaver said.

“Introducing the new blood product will improve chances of survival for critically injured patients with severe blood loss, allowing them the chance to reach the hospital.”

Royal London trauma consultant Dr Anne Weaver... Royal London trauma consultant Dr Anne Weaver... "We have potential to save more lives."” Picture source: London Air Ambulance

The Air Ambulance base at Whitechapel was the first in Britain to use red blood cell transfusion when it introduced ‘blood on board’ in 2012 on helicopters and in its rapid response cars.

It led to a 15 per cent reduction in pre-hospital mortality, down to 19pc. Today’s launch using the ‘blood and plasma’ product aims to bring down that percentage still further.

The ‘Red cells and plasma’ product contains essential clotting ingredients to help form stronger blood clots and replace lost blood volume to improve chances of survival.

The need has been identified by Barts Health NHS Trust and Queen Mary University which found that 100 emergency patients suffer traumatic injuries each year leading to such serious bleeding that they may die before reaching hospital.

Queen Mary’s senior trauma sciences lecturer Dr Ross Davenport revealed: “Experience from military conflicts found whole blood to be a life-saving treatment for major bleeding.

“But blood was separated in civilian practice into its various components for individual transfusion for non-bleeding patients.

“We now know patients who bleed from trauma need all components of blood as an effective way to stop bleeding.”

The new product is being be used by the air crew doctor-paramedic teams before air-lifting critically-injured patients to hospital. Their experience provides a unique opportunity to assess its clinical benefits during the two-year study.

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