Jones TB, Moore VL, Shishido AA. 19(4). 88 - 90. (Journal Article)
The US Joint Trauma System (JTS) recommends stored whole blood (SWB) as the preferred product for prehospital resuscitation of battlefield casualties in both their Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) guidelines and their clinical practice guidelines (CPGs). Clinical data from nearly 2 decades of war during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) suggest that whole blood (WB) is safe, effective, and far superior to crystalloid and colloid resuscitation fluids. The JTS CPG for whole blood transfusion reflects the most recent clinical evidence but poses unique challenges for execution by Special Operations Forces (SOF) operating in austere environments. Given the limited shelf-life of 35 days, WB requires a constant steady pool of donors. Additionally, the cold-chain requirement for storage poses challenges for SOF on long missions without access to blood refrigerators. SOF operating in less-developed theaters face additional logistical challenges. To mitigate the challenges of WB delivery, US SOF have implemented various protocols to ensure optimal donor pool, awareness/education among medics and specialized equipment for tactical methods of blood-carry and delivery. In general, steps taken include the following: (1) Prior to deployment, soldiers are screened for blood type and titers in order to establish a large donor pool. Support soldiers have been found to be particularly beneficial donors as they typically are in closer proximity to the blood support detachment. (2) In units that operate in smaller teams, such as ODAs, medics are outfitted with "blood kits" to carry blood on missions for point of injury transfusion. In units with larger teams, LTOWB donors are identified on missions and deliver fresh WB in the event of casualties. (3) Medics receive a WB transfusion refresher tabletop exercise and review after action reviews from previous rotations. Additionally, prehospital WB delivery is a required component of scenario-based premission training. The expectation is that medics will administer WB on missions when tactically feasible. Using the prolonged field care framework (ruck, truck, house) as a template, medics now use different methods to store and transport the SWB depending on phase. Medic "truck" and "house" kits include the Dometic CFX™ powered coolers that run on AC, DC, or solar power and allow for constant temperature monitoring. When on foot, medics have been outfitted with tactical blood coolers including the Pelican Biomedical Medic 4™ or Combat Medical Blood Box™ along with a Belmont Buddy-Lite™ intravenous (IV) infusion warmer and IV administration kit with standard micron filter. Presently, SOF medics have the donor support, logistical framework, training, and equipment to deliver WB at the point of injury. However, widespread implementation will require expanded distribution and standardization of "blood kits." Additionally, SOF medical planners must put greater emphasis on education and the importance of WB over crystalloids or colloids-as many medics continue to carry only these products out of convenience. As SOF strive to establish tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) and streamline prehospital WB delivery, we must constantly reassess and refine our procedures, incorporate the latest evidence and technology, and adapt to an evolving battlefield.