Arlington taking lead in regional fire-department blood initiative

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Beginning the month, the Arlington County Fire Department will carry whole blood as part of a regional EMS initiative to bring lifesaving treatment for patients with major bleeding prior to arriving at the hospital.

The Arlington department joins Loudoun County Fire and Rescue as the first two agencies in the region to participate in the effort, although it is expected to expand across the area.

Major life-threatening bleeding, from trauma or other medical ailments, is traditionally treated by rushing patients to the hospital to receive a blood transfusion; this transport of patients to the hospital in some instances can delay specific treatment for the blood loss for upwards of 30-45 minutes, with the potential of significant worsening or even death.

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 patients who critically need blood; it is clear that initiation prior to arrival at a hospital can improve survival.

The Arlington County Fire Department estimates that as many as 30 people per year in the county will benefit from the treatment.

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 field whole blood program will allow paramedics to administer this life-saving treatment within the first few minutes of arrival at the patients’ side.

Although not the first EMS agencies in the U.S. to make whole-blood available to ground EMS units, the Northern Virginia region will be the second regional coalition to develop this program nationally, and the first on the East Coast.

The whole-blood program represents cutting-edge EMS treatment, according to Inova Blood Donor Services, and utilizes the most recent medical research and lessons learned from the military.

“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,” Inova officials said.

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