A pilot program that enables paramedics to provide transfusions to patients who are hemorrhaging blood before they reach the hospital is already helping to save lives in Austin and Travis County.
Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services, Austin’s Chief Medical Officer, and local blood bank We Are Blood launched the program in December 2021, ensuring that at least two response vehicles are equipped with whole blood at any time. The results have been quite positive as paramedics have been able to more effectively tend to patients who are losing blood, saving precious time for patients.
In the first six months of the program a total of 28 patients have received blood in the field – 15 of them for trauma and 13 for a medical issue – giving them a much higher chance of survival than if they had waited until they arrived at the hospital for treatment, officials said.
Excessive bleeding is the leading cause of potentially survivable pre-hospital deaths. Patients who get transfused within 30 minutes of injury or life-threatening hemorrhage have a significantly increased chance of survival.
“This program represents a huge shift in mindset in how we manage trauma,” said Dr. Jason Pickett, Chief Deputy Medical Director for the City of Austin. “Giving whole blood helps patients and saves lives. We’re not just getting them to the hospital, we’re reversing the effects of shock early, increasing their chances of long-term survival. Early use of whole blood can also reduce the amount of blood a patient has to receive by half, conserving our community resource.”
The City is in the process of expanding the program. By the end of 2022, up to 11 EMS supervisor and EMS physician response vehicles are expected to carry whole blood.