Red tides: Mass casualty and whole blood at sea

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The U.S. Navy’s casualty-receiving ships provide remote damage control resuscitation platforms to treat injured combatants deployed afloat and ashore. We report a significant mass casualty incident aboard the USS Bataan, and the most warm fresh whole blood (WFWB) transfused at sea for traumatic hemorrhagic shock since the Vietnam War.


Casualty-receiving ships have robust medical capabilities, including a frozen blood bank with packed red blood cells (pRBC) and fresh frozen plasma (FFP). The blood supply can be augmented with WFWB collected from a “walking blood bank.”


Following a helicopter crash, six patients were transported by MV-22 Osprey to the USS Bataan. Patient 1 had a pelvic fracture, was managed with a pelvic binder, and received 4 units of pRBC, 2 units of FFP, and 6 units of WFWB. Patient 2, with a comminuted tibia and fibula fracture, underwent lower extremity four-compartment fasciotomy, and received 4 units of WFWB. Patient 3 underwent several procedures, including left anterior thoracotomy, aortic cross-clamping, exploratory laparotomy, small bowel resection, and tracheostomy. He received 8 units of pRBC, 8 units of FFP, and 28 units of WFWB. Patients 4 and 5 had suspected spine injuries and were managed nonoperatively. Patient 6, with open tibia and fibula fractures, underwent lower extremity four-compartment fasciotomy with tibia external fixation and received 1 unit of WFWB. All patients survived aeromedical evacuation to a role 4 medical facility and subsequent transfer to local hospitals.


Maritime military mass casualty incidents are challenging, but the U.S. Navy’s casualty-receiving ships are ready to perform remote damage control resuscitation at sea. Activation of the ship’s walking blood bank to transfuse WFWB is essential for hemostatic resuscitations afloat.


Study type: case series, level V.

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