Background: Administration of fresh whole blood (FWB) is a life-saving treatment that prolongs life until definitive surgical intervention can be performed; however, collecting FWB is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. Furthermore, it may be difficult to collect sufficient FWB to treat critically wounded patients or multiple-hemorrhaging casualties. This study describes the effect of airdrop on FWB and explores the possibility of using airdrop to deliver FWB to combat medics treating casualties in the prehospital setting when FDA-approved, cold-stored blood products are not readily available and timely casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) is not feasible.
Methods: Four units of FWB were collected from volunteer donors and loaded into a blood cooler that was dropped from a fixed-wing aircraft under a standard airdrop training bundle (SATB) parachute. A control group of 4 units of FWB was stored in a blood cooler that was not dropped. Baseline and postintervention laboratory samples were measured in both airdropped and control units, including full blood counts, prothrombin time/partial thromboplastin time/international normalized ratio (PT/PTT/INR), pH, lactate, potassium, indirect bilirubin, glucose, fibrinogen, lactate dehydrogenase, and peripheral blood smears.
Results: The blood cooler, cooling bags, and all 4 FWB units did not sustain any damage from the airdrop. There was no evidence of hemolysis. All airdropped blood met parameters for transfusion per the Whole Blood Transfusion Clinical Practice Guideline of the Joint Trauma System (JTS).
Conclusions: Airdrop of FWB in a blood cooler with a SATB parachute may be a viable way of delivering blood products to combat medics treating hemorrhaging patients in the prehospital setting, although further research is needed to fully validate the safety of this method of FWB delivery.