Air care expected to “save more lives” once blood is on board


The only group of air care units in Northern Virginia will soon be able to carry blood in their helicopters in order to treat patients at the scene of an accident.

As part of a deal made with Virginia Blood Services, all five PHI Air Medical helicopters, which includes Air Care 4 in Front Royal, will start carrying three bags of blood – O plus and O negative – on every flight by the end of June.

Air Care 4 paramedic and base supervisor, Brian Katcher, remembers one gruesome incident when administering blood at the scene could have made a world of difference.

“Someone actually had amputated a chunk of his arm,” Katcher said, “so, if we had been able to get the blood on there earlier, it probably would have decreased the amount of time the patient had to be in the hospital afterwards and decreased the complications due to the blood loss.”

The victim lived, but Katcher said others aren’t as lucky.

“Patients die from trauma. Patients lose blood and the first few hours are incredibly important.”

According to Virginia Blood Services, 190,000 people die from physical trauma each year, and 47 percent of those deaths are caused by massive hemorrhaging.

Katcher said having blood on flight gives him hope that EMS services in Northern Virginia will soon be able replace enough blood lost to hemorrhaging to make that percentage decrease.

“For us to be able to get blood on, really upfront, and get oxygen where it needs to be in the body and replace the blood – what the patient’s actually losing – is really important to the survival of patients,” he said.

The extra blood will be kept in refrigerators at the hanger and the blood in the helicopters will be stored in temperature-controlled boxes.

Without having to wait until you get to the hospital to replace lost blood, Katcher said the outcome is good for patients, EMS and hospital staff.

“We can decrease not just the chance  of death, but decrease the amount of recovery time for the patients, the amount of time the patient spends in the hospital. It really is good for the patient. It’s good for the whole health care system.”

Katcher said PI Air Medical Care needed to collect enough data showing that having blood on the PHI helicopters in Northern Virginia was needed before Virginia Blood Services would supply it.

He also mentioned that leftover blood will be sent back to VBS. 

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