Red tides: Mass casualty and whole blood at sea

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

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.

METHODS

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.”

RESULTS

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.

CONCLUSION

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.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE

Study type: case series, level V.

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