Transportation of blood in a helicopter emergency medical service: The importance of specialised equipment

Christopher Stein, Eduardo Caetano


Background. Administration of blood in the pre-hospital environment is becoming more feasible, particularly in helicopter emergency medical
services (HEMS) during primary response and critical care transfers of major trauma patients. The main challenge in this environment is
maintaining a suitable thermal environment for blood transport during missions that may last several hours.
Aim. To investigate whether a simple and cost-effective method of storage in a typical HEMS operation would provide an adequate thermal
environment for blood.
Method. A commercially available cooler box and ice packs were used to simulate a blood transport environment during HEMS missions over
three summer and three winter months. In-box temperature was monitored using an electronic thermometer and data logger.
Results. Temperature data were recorded during 146 missions with a mean duration of 02:01:35 (95% confidence interval 01:46:25 - 02:16:46).
A total of 344 temperature observations were done in the summer months and 384 in the winter months. All mean temperatures recorded
in the cooler box were within the required 1 - 6°C range; however, of the total temperature observations recorded, 30% (102/344) during
summer were >6°C while 8% (32/384) during winter were >6°C and 15% (59/384) were <1°C. The maximum temperature recorded overall
was 13°C and the minimum was −3°C.
Conclusion. Low-cost, non-specialised materials used in a HEMS operation were not adequate for the safe transport of blood.

Authors' affiliations

Christopher Stein, Department of Emergency Medical Care, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Eduardo Caetano, Department of Emergency Medical Care, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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blood; wounds and injuries; air ambulances

Cite this article

Southern African Journal of Critical Care 2016;32(2):62. DOI:10.7196/SAJCC.2016.v32i2.268

Article History

Date submitted: 2016-02-07
Date published: 2016-11-10

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