Are on-scene blood transfusions by a helicopter emergency medical service useful and safe? a multicentre case–control study

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Abstract

Introduction

In the prehospital setting, crystalloid fluids are frequently used, but only erythrocytes are capable of transporting oxygen to tissues. The aim of this study was to establish the efficacy and safety of the prehospital use of uncross matched type O rhesus-negative packed red blood cells (URBC) by the Dutch physician-staffed helicopter emergency medical service. We hypothesized that prehospital URBC transfusions are safe and more effective with respect to survival than resuscitations with crystalloids.

Methods

The effects of prehospital URBC transfusions were studied by comparing a cohort of patients (>18 years) who were treated with a combination of URBC and crystalloid fluids with a matched control group of patients who received crystalloid fluids alone.

Results

Among 73 adults who received prehospital URBC transfusions, 50 (68%) patients were included. No transfusion reactions were observed. No effect of prehospital transfusion on 24-h or 30-day survival was found. Haemoglobin levels at presentation to the emergency department were higher in the URBC cohort. The two groups had similar cumulative erythrocyte requirements within the first 24 h.

Conclusion

Neither survival benefits nor a decreased incidence of shock on admission were observed after prehospital helicopter emergency medical service URBC transfusions. There were no prehospital transfusion reactions in this study; therefore, URBC transfusions were deemed to be safe. A prospective randomized study is warranted to evaluate the effect of early URBC transfusions and transfusions with preheated URBC on the survival of patients with severe prehospital haemorrhagic shock.

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