Arlington, VA

The Arlington County Fire Department is taking new measures that could help save some critically injured or ill patients.

The department announced yesterday that it is rolling out a new “whole blood” program this month, in which medics will be trained to administer blood transfusions in the field for people suffering life-threatening bleeding.

The blood will be carried in climate-controlled compartments in EMS supervisor vehicles — the fire department SUVs with the Caduceus on the side.

By administering blood in the field, patients will receive critical care for blood loss significantly faster, ACFD said, noting that it can otherwise take up to 30-45 minutes to receive blood when a patient is transported to the hospital. The department says that 20-30 people per year are likely to benefit from field blood transfusions in Arlington.

The program is being rolled out to other Northern Virginia fire departments, as well. Public safety officials, meanwhile, are urging residents to give blood to ensure the region has an adequate supply.

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Beginning this month, the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) will carry whole blood as part of a regional EMS initiative to bring lifesaving treatment to patients with major, life-threatening bleeding before arriving at the hospital.

ACFD estimates that 20-30 people per year in Arlington County will benefit from this treatment.

Life-threatening bleeding, such as from trauma or other medical ailments, is usually treated by rushing patients to the hospital to receive a blood transfusion. This transport of patients can delay treatment for the blood loss for upwards of 30-45 minutes in some instances.

Recent research has shown that not only is whole blood more beneficial for the patient than blood that has been split into components, but also that early administration is better for critical patients who need blood. Previously whole blood was only available on medevac helicopters.

Developed by a regional coalition of EMS experts from the Arlington County Fire Department, Loudoun County Fire Department, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, and the Northern Virginia EMS Council, and partnering with Inova Blood Donor Services, the EMS field whole blood program will allow ACFD paramedics to administer this lifesaving treatment within the first few minutes of arrival at the patient’s side.

The Northern Virginia region will be the second EMS regional coalition to develop this program nationally and the first on the East Coast.

“The field whole blood program represents cutting edge EMS treatment and utilizes the most recent medical research and lessons learned from the military,” said Dr. E Reed Smith, the Arlington County Fire and Police Department Operational Medical Director. “With more than 2.5 million people in the Northern Virginia region, this is one of — if not the — largest field administered whole blood program in the nation.”

Dr. Smith added, “Heroes give blood. The Arlington County Fire Department wants to remind everyone that anyone can be a hero and encourages anyone who can donate blood to do so and join the ‘Whole Blood Brigade’.”

As part of the new program, the ACFD EMS Supervisor medical response vehicles have been equipped with climate-controlled compartments and special carrying containers that ensure the blood supply is kept at a proper temperature while it is stored.

ACFD Advanced Practice Officers (APO), the most advanced trained paramedics in the Arlington County Fire Department, received whole blood administration training in August and will be the operational leaders for blood transfusions by ACFD. In September, as the program is rolled out, the entire EMS force will be trained to assist when blood transfusion is initiated in the field.

With the logistics, training, and operations of implementing a new program now established, ACFD and Loudoun County Fire and Rescue will be the first two agencies in the Northern Virginia EMS Council to implement this program. However, any jurisdiction that is a member of the Northern Virginia EMS Council may tap into this program for their EMS agency.

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