Texas fire dept. now using whole blood in ambulances

San Antonio is the first large metropolitan area in the U.S. to use whole blood to perform blood transfusions on trauma patients

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio paramedics are now carrying whole blood in their ambulances, making the city the first large metropolitan area to do so.

KSAT reported that seven San Antonio Fire Department ambulances are now equipped with high-tech coolers and warmers that allow them to carry whole blood and perform blood transfusions on trauma patients.

SAFD personnel said the change is the biggest trauma response game-changer in decades.

"At least a twofold increase in life saving," SAFD deputy medical director C.J. Winckler said.

The coolers and warmers were first put in local medical helicopters after the practice was proven to save lives on military battlefields.


"Both Brook Army Medical Center and University Hospital, they are seeing better outcomes. Patients are arriving a little less sick, and then the resuscitation required in the trauma room is less," former Army trauma nurse and current Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council research director Randi Schaefer said.

Winckler said the results from whole blood on the medical helicopters were shocking, raising the trauma survival rate from “20 or 30 percent” to “as high as 70 percent.” He added that he expects the ground ambulances to show the same results.

"They got a person who was in shock that had been stabbed multiple times. The person received additional blood in the OR and is expected to make a 100 percent recovery," SAFD Lt. Josh Frandsen said about one of the four incidents in which the whole blood has been used in an ambulance.

Winckler said the whole blood “solution involves keeping the blood near freezing.”

“1 to 9 degrees Celsius in 120-degree Texas weather, and then you have to warm that blood up to body temperature to get [it] into the patient," he said.

The coolers and warmers are also small enough to where paramedics can take them out of the ambulances to perform blood transfusions elsewhere.

The blood is shared between medical helicopters and ambulances, with the helicopters keeping the bags for 14 days and then giving them to the ground ambulances for another 14 days. Whatever blood is not used after that then goes to the hospitals.

Lt. Frandsen said research predicts 200 residents could be saved with whole blood in the next year.

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