Your next blood donation may end up saving someone at the scene of an accident, on a medical helicopter, or in an emergency room.
The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center was one of the first blood centers in the country to implement this innovative program. Brothers in Arms enables emergency teams to transfuse trauma patients with specially screened type O-positive whole blood at the scene of an accident, on a medical helicopter, or in an emergency room.
The program has led to a 25% decrease in deaths from traumatic injuries from accidents and industrial settings, saving hundreds of patients a year.
It is type O-positive whole blood that has low levels of certain antibodies, making it usable in patients of any blood type in emergencies. This stored whole blood is stable up to 35 days and includes all blood components, which has been shown to lead to better outcomes for trauma patients than transfusions of individual blood components.
This initiative has transformed the way trauma care is delivered at trauma scenes, onboard medical helicopters and at emergencies involving San Antonio Fire Department Command Units.
The normal mortality rate when a trauma patient arrives at the hospital requiring massive transfusions (10 units or more in a day) is 75%.
Research done by the military focused on providing whole blood transfusions earlier, since whole blood is better for replacing what the patient loses through massive bleeding.
The military showed that adding whole blood to early transfusion protocols decreased the mortality rate from 60% (when patients received mainly red blood cells) to 20% for patients receiving whole blood, demonstrating a dramatic improvement in survival rates. The patients receiving whole blood also required fewer transfusions to keep them stabilized.
Type O-positive blood donations by men who donate at an STBTC donor room will be tested for specific antibody levels. Those below a certain threshold will be identified as potential donors for the program.
Men tend to have lower levels of antibodies in their blood than women, which helps prevent reactions in patients who receive a transfusion. Blood from men in the Brothers in Arms initiative can be received by almost any patient, which is critical in emergency situations when there is no time to test a patient’s blood type.
Brothers in Arms whole blood is being carried on 18 medical helicopters serving South Texas, as well as on San Antonio Fire Department Command Units and Local Level 1 trauma centers.
Using stored whole blood for trauma victims has been shown to be more effective in the treatment of traumatic injuries since it contains all the major blood components: red blood cells, which are lost in bleeding; platelets, which help seal breaks in blood vessels; and plasma, which boosts blood volume.
Stored whole blood is especially significant for trauma treatments because under current guidelines, platelets by themselves are usable for only three to five days. When refrigerated, whole blood can be stored up to 35 days.
This program has also expanded the pool of products available for emergency use, since O-positive is the single largest blood type in the United States. It will help alleviate chronic shortages of O-negative blood, which has been used for emergency transfusions for many years but is found in just 7 percent of the population.
No, but we are one of the first communities in the country to implement it. A similar program was used during the latter stages of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War for battlefield transfusions. The concept was revived by studies conducted by the Mayo Clinic and the U.S. Army.
No. Whole blood donation will be exactly the same as it is now. Brothers in Arms donors may be asked to give two to three times a year.
Just one: Donors cannot be on an aspirin regimen, since that affects the functioning of platelets in the donated blood.
For more than 45 years, the nonprofit South Texas Blood & Tissue Center has focused on a critical purpose: to save and improve lives.
Inspired by a group of physicians, our organization was formed to provide blood to the South Texas region – ensuring a safe and adequate blood supply through proper testing, storage and distribution to hospitals. This essential service allows front-line workers to focus on the direct care of patients, with confidence that this lifesaving resource will be there when it’s needed most.
But we didn’t stop there. Over the years, we’ve evolved as the needs of our patients and hospitals have changed, driven to save lives in as many ways as possible.
We couldn’t do this without donors like you. We understand that the gift of donation is a personal, powerful choice that has the potential to touch a life. Today, we offer many ways to make a difference that include:
Our team has also expanded its programs, partnering with leaders within the healthcare industry to develop a wide range of therapies. We’ve recently developed programs to collect and distribute COVID-19 convalescent plasma, as well as improve trauma care.