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Operation Blood Rain Phase 2: Evaluating the Effect of Airdrop on Fresh and Stored Whole Blood

Ahead of Print 2099

Fuentes RW, Shawler EK, Smith WD, Tong RL, Barnes WJ, Moncada M, Bohlke CW, Mitchell AL. Ahead of Print. (Journal Article)

Abstract

Background: Transfusion of whole blood (WB) is a lifesaving treatment that prolongs life until definitive surgical intervention can be performed; however, collecting WB is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. Furthermore, it may be difficult to collect sufficient WB at the point of injury to treat critically wounded patients or multiple hemorrhaging casualties. This study is a follow-up to the proof-of-concept study on the effect of airdrop on WB. In addition, this study confirms the statistical significance for the plausibility of using airdrop to deliver WB to combat medics treating casualties in the pre-hospital setting when Federal Drug Administration (FDA)-approved cold-stored blood products are not available. Methods: Forty-eight units of WB were collected and loaded into a blood cooler that was dropped from a fixed-wing aircraft under a Standard Airdrop Training Bundle (SATB) parachute or 68-in pilot chute. Twenty-four of these units were dropped from a C-145 aircraft, and 24 were dropped from a C-130 aircraft. A control group of 15 units of WB was stored in a blood cooler that was not dropped. Baseline and post-intervention laboratory tests were measured in both airdropped and control units, including complete blood count; prothrombin time/partial thromboplastin time (PT/PTT); pH, lactate, potassium, bilirubin, glucose, fibrinogen, and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels; and peripheral blood smears. Results: The blood cooler, cooling packs, and all 48 WB units did not sustain any major damage from the airdrop. There was no evidence of hemolysis. Except for the one slightly damaged bag that was not sampled, all airdropped blood met parameters for transfusion per the Joint Trauma System Whole Blood Transfusion Clinical Practice Guideline and the Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies (AABB) Circular of Information for the Use of Human Blood and Blood Components. Conclusions: Airdrop of fresh or stored WB in a blood cooler with a chute is a viable way of delivering blood products to combat medics treating hemorrhaging patients in the pre-hospital setting. This study also demonstrated the portability of this technique for multiple aircraft. The techniques evaluated in this study have the potential for utilization in other austere settings such as wilderness medicine or humanitarian disasters where an acute need for WB delivery by airdrop is the only option.

Keywords: whole blood transfusion; airdrop; airdrop blood; aerial resupply; Tactical Combat Casualty Care

PMID: 35862850