New type of blood transfusion transforming trauma care in Victoria

Victoria one of the first cities in the country to offer unique lifesaving procedure in emergencies
October 2, 2019
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The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center (STBTC), in partnership with the Victoria Fire Department (VFD), today launched the Brothers in Arms (BIA) program to aid accident and trauma patients.

The program will enable VFD medical crews to administer special pre-hospital transfusions of whole blood that counter blood loss and improve survival rates.

The use of whole-blood transfusion prior to arrival at the hospital is saving lives and has already shown at least a 25% decline in trauma deaths for those requiring emergency transfusion,” said Linda Rapp, Executive Director of Blood Operations of STBTC. “In addition to the community and cities in the region, the program also supports workplace safety initiatives in industrial settings.” 

Victoria is one of the first cities to implement the system, which is based on a battlefield transfusion program developed by the U.S. military and later adapted at the Mayo Clinic trauma center.

"The Victoria Fire Department is proud and honored to be one of the first cities in the United States to offer this level of service to our community," said Robert Fox, Fire Chief of the Victoria Fire Department. "Our mission is to preserve life and property with dedicated and caring service and this program enhances our ability to achieve our mission."

Although O-negative blood traditionally is used in emergency situations because it is relatively safe to give to people with all blood types, supplies are extremely limited. O-negative donors represent only 7% of the U.S. population, compared to 36% who are O-positive.

STBTC’s sister organization, QualTex Laboratories, worked with the military to develop the testing protocol to identify O-positive donors with the necessary low antibody levels. Brothers in Arms donations come from men only, since they tend to have lower levels of antibodies in their blood than women, reducing the possibility of adverse reactions in patients.

STBTC is working to sign up a committed pool of male O-positive donors for the Brothers in Arms program to ensure a regular supply of specially tested whole blood is available when needed.

The Brothers in Arms program:

  • Uses whole blood instead of blood components (red cells, plasma or platelets) because whole blood has been shown to better control bleeding.
  • Comes from battlefield tests led by Dr. Jenkins that showed dramatically improved survival rates among wounded soldiers who received whole blood vs. components.
  • Provides transfusions much earlier, at the trauma site or on route to the hospital, which military tests also showed increased survival rates.

“Ensuring a stable blood supply for patients and hospital partners in all the communities served by STBTC is paramount,” Waltman said. “It is imperative that programs like Brothers in Arms have specialty blood to support and sustain the program, especially given that a whole blood unit has a 35-day shelf life.”

The program was established in San Antonio with support from a grant provided by the San Antonio Medical Foundation.

Male donors who would like to know if they qualify to be a Brothers in Arms volunteer are encouraged to call 210-731-5590 to schedule an appointment for testing. For more information visit SouthTexasBlood.org/Brothers