Naval Hospital Provides Whole Blood Units on the Homefront

Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune’s Armed Services Blood Program Blood Donor Center has implemented policies and procedures to store and use Whole Blood Units within the medical center’s Level III trauma center. The internal use of Whole Blood collected at blood drives is a first in the Navy.

As a Level III trauma center, Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune (NMCCL) sees a variety of severely injured patients. This has required necessary shifts in services and capabilities within the medical center.

One significant need is the demand for whole blood units.

The Armed Services Blood Program Blood Donor Center (ASPB BDC) has responded to this and implemented policies and procedures necessary for the storage and distribution of Whole Blood Units (WBUs) in a stateside setting, a process which is the first within the Navy.

“Providing Whole Blood Units is the ‘new, old way’ of doing things,” said Cmdr. Leslie Riggs, chief of blood services. “Historically, blood was broken down into two pieces [red cells/platelets and plasma] and given separately. It was not the standard of care to keep the unit together until recently.”

Riggs and Taylor Sanders, supervisor of transfusion services, credited Lt. Cmdr. Philip Peterson for the creation of new policies to make using WBUs within the trauma center possible.

Having WBUs on-hand provides more efficient and effective treatment to patients experiencing bleeding emergencies, as well as providing vital training opportunities for NMCCL’s active-duty staff in administering the product which more closely relates to the treatment of patients injured while forward deployed

WBUs have always been collected, processed and frozen at NMCCL, explained Riggs, but most were being sent downrange to be used in theater.

Now a larger portion of WBUs are being stored for use within the trauma center.

“From the Navy’s perspective, we are coming in line with civilian trauma centers in using this for trauma patients,” said Riggs. “I think the next step we may actually be pushing this [WBU] out to ambulances and air ambulances, those inbound with traumas to help keep patient alive so that they arrive in our doorstep. This is very similar to blood transfusion at the point of injury on the battlefield.”

Administering WBUs is standard practice for patients suffering from a bleeding emergency in a forward-deployed situation, Riggs explained.

Sanders explained WBUs being available within the trauma center is critical because there is a 5% mortality rate increase for every minute a patient waits for a transfusion.

Being able to administer a single unit or product from in-house supplies allows for quicker, more efficient care to more critically injured trauma patients.

Previously, the two units available were administered individually or even together in an effort to treat a patient by simulating blood already in the body, a single WBU is exactly what is in the body, eliminating the introduction of preservatives found in the other two separate unit pieces.

“This is a more efficient and effective product for those situations,” said Sanders. “All three products patients could need are in a single unit.”

“I see this becoming standard for those MFTs [military treatment facilities] who receive traumas on a regular basis,” said Riggs.

NMCCL will continue to make the broken down blood products.

The BDC relies on regular units collected from blood drives to be able to produce the three crucial products used within the medical center as well as sent overseas.

To find the next blood drive hosted by NMCCL’s ASBP, call 910-450-3456 or visit militaryblood.org.