Hemodynamic instability and hemorrhagic shock are frequently encountered by emergency medical services providers managing ill and injured patients during critical care transport. Although many critical care transport services commonly transfuse crystalloids and/or packed red blood cells (PRBCs), the administration of whole blood (WB) in prehospital care is currently limited. WB contains PRBCs, plasma, and platelets in a physiologic ratio to aid in oxygen delivery to tissue as well as hemostasis. This study describes a single critical care transport program's experience using WB for critically ill and injured patients and reports important clinical and safety outcomes.
This study was a retrospective review of patients who were transported by a single rotor wing–based critical care transport service to 1 of 2 tertiary care receiving hospitals within a single health system. Patients who were transported between November 1, 2018, and November 30, 2019, and who received at least 1 unit of low-titer group O WB during critical care transport were included. The primary outcomes of interest included 24-hour mortality and the total 24-hour transfusion requirement. The safety outcomes included transfusion reactions, acute lung injury, acute kidney injury, and the incidence of venous thromboembolism.
During the study period, there were 3,084 total patients transported by our critical care transport service. There were 71 patients who received prehospital WB, 64 of whom met the inclusion criteria. The top 3 indications for WB administration included blunt trauma (n = 27, 42.2%), gastrointestinal hemorrhage (n = 15, 23.4%), and penetrating trauma (n = 11, 17.2%). The median total number of blood components transfused within 24 hours was 4.0 (interquartile range, 2.0-9.5), and the overall 24-hour mortality rate was 21.9%.
The administration of WB by emergency medical services providers to critically ill and injured patients in the prehospital setting is feasible and is associated with low incidences of adverse events and transfusion reactions. Further research is needed to elucidate the benefits of WB relative to current prehospital standards of care.
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Published online: June 17, 2022
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