Devon Air Ambulance (DAA) is now able to administer blood plasma to its patients while in flight, an additional life-saving treatment that was not previously available in Devon until the patient arrived at a hospital’s emergency department.
Ops director Nigel Hare states: “In simple terms, blood is made up of red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body, white blood cells which protect against and ‘eat up’ infection, and plasma, which amongst other things contains the clotting agents which helps blood to clot when you are bleeding.
“All blood products, including plasma, need to be kept cold, but then warmed up to near body temperature immediately prior to administering to the patient. This has logistical challenges outside of a hospital, especially on a helicopter, so to help us to provide a safer and more reliable service we are now carrying a recent innovation, freeze-dried plasma called LyoPlas.
“If a patient is bleeding severely, giving them plasma provides them with additional support to enable their body to form and maintain blood clots to stem the bleeding. The advantage of LyoPlas is that it comes in a small 250ml bottle, which we keep cool in a special insulated bag. We then reconstitute the freeze-dried granules with body temperature sterile water, which we carry in a separate insulated section of the bag. The whole process takes just a few minutes.”
Although LyoPlas is already in use in the UK, DAA has to import it from Germany. As it needs to be transported and stored chilled, as well as managed in accordance with stringent blood product regulations, the company is working with the Transfusion Laboratory (Blood Bank) at the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust which receives, stores and provides traceability of the product.
“We hold enough LyoPlas at our airbases to treat three or four patients,” adds Hare. “When we have administered some, Devon Freewheelers, a charity specialising in supporting healthcare providers with volunteers who move blood products and other urgent items around the county to support patient care, collect replacement LyoPlas from the Blood Bank and deliver it to our airbases.
“As medical technology advances, Devon Air Ambulance strives to ensure our patients benefit from the latest innovations to help provide them with the best chance of a successful outcome. Without our fantastic supporters none of these developments would be possible. We are particularly grateful to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and Devon Freewheelers in helping us to add plasma to the other life-saving treatments we are able to provide our patients.”