In 2011 The Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) and Air Ambulance Victoria (AAV) worked together to establish the first service to allow helicopters to carry blood products on board.
Prior to the shift in 2011, blood was conveyed to the scene of a major trauma from the nearest hospital. The concept was thought of a few years prior to it being implemented as relying on the closest hospital wasn’t best practice and could lead to worse health outcomes, particularly in major trauma cases.
Royal Melbourne Hospital senior scientist Michael Haeusler and Haematologist Chris Hogan worked alongside air ambulance’s Murray Barkmeyer to get the project off the ground.
Murray from AAV explained this was the first of its kind to be rolled out in Australia, Victoria took the lead when it came to administering blood transfusions via air ambulances.
“We were the first HEMS MICA flight system in Australia to get blood on board, there was a long process in ensuring the blood could withstand a lot of different temperatures and conditions,” Murray said.
Since the program beginning, it’s changed clinical guidelines and has become standard practice, Chris Hogan said.
“Having blood available on air ambulances dramatically improves in the field resuscitated of critically bleeding patients,” Chris said.
In order to get blood safely transported through our air ambulances the team had to overcome a number of obstacles, including ensuring the supply could withstand rapidly changing temperatures.
“The blood has to remain at 4 degrees at all times, so the blood shipper used for transport had to enable the blood to stay at the correct temperature so there was no waste, it also had to fit in the space available so was designed to be small enough to fit into the aircraft,” Michael said.
And while it’s hard to imagine a time before blood was readily available in Air Ambulances, the AAV team are called out to around 100-120 jobs every year, using 350-400 units of blood.