FREEZE-DRIED PLASMA EFFORT SEEKS TO INCREASE BATTLEFIELD SURVIVAL RATES
FALLS CHURCH, Va., Aug. 25, 2015 — The Army Blood Program, a service component of the tri-service Armed Services Blood Program, is currently involved in an initiative to collect licensed fresh plasma from volunteer donors. The donations will be converted into freeze-dried plasma, a new product that may significantly increase the survival rates for service members wounded on the battlefield.
“Plasma is often the unsung hero in the blood banking world,” said Navy Capt. Roland Fahie, ASBP director. “It’s an important component that is often overlooked; but in reality, it can play a large role in saving lives of service members worldwide.”
Plasma makes up about 55 percent of a person’s overall blood content and carries the other blood components – red blood cells, while blood cells and platelets – throughout the body. It also contains clotting factors that help stop bleeding, making it an important blood product to have on the battlefield.
According to Army Lt. Col. Audra Taylor, director of the Army Blood Program, studies show that giving plasma before a wounded patient reaches a hospital significantly improves the possibility of survival.
“Freeze-dried plasma is an ideal treatment for the battlefield because of its packaging,” Taylor said. “The plasma can be easily reconstituted to its original form when mixed with water and administered in less than six minutes. This is a big advantage for our service members who are injured on the battlefield.”
Unlike fresh frozen plasma which is required to be stored at negative 18 degrees Celsius, freeze-dried plasma does not require refrigeration or dry ice, making it easier to transport in theater.
“Because there is no refrigeration requirement, switching to freeze-dried plasma will reduce the battlefield power requirement,” Fahie said. “Reducing the battlefield power requirement means the freeze-dried product can be deployed further forward than fresh frozen plasma.”
Taylor also said that the shelf life for freeze-dried plasma is notably longer than that of fresh frozen plasma.
“Freeze-dried plasma has a shelf life of two years, whereas fresh frozen plasma only lasts one year when frozen,” Taylor said. “The longer shelf life also helps ensure that we continually have quality blood products on hand – another considerable advantage for our troops.”
In order to donate plasma for the freeze-dried program, a donor must be male with type A, B or AB blood, weigh at least 175 pounds, and meet the general requirements for donating whole blood.
The procedure, known as apheresis, is similar to a normal plasma donation. Blood is drawn from a donor’s arm into a sterile self-contained system that separates the plasma from the other blood components. The plasma is collected and the remaining components – red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets – are then returned to the donor through the same arm.
“At no time is your blood exposed to open air,” Taylor said. “Nor does it leave the sterile, enclosed environment of the plasma apheresis system. The procedure is very safe for donors and ensures a safe, quality and potent donation for recipients.”
Taylor said there are two differences between a regular plasma donation and one for the freeze-dried program: how much plasma is collected and the need for the donor to return after the first donation.
For a single unit, Taylor said a total of 250 milliliters are drawn from a donor. For a freeze-dried donation, a total of 750 milliliters are drawn and the donor receives a saline replacement during the donation. Additionally, a donor must be able to return 60 days after the initial donation in order to participate in the program.
“Since the freeze-dried plasma initiative is using donor retested plasma, the donor must be retested for all disease markers within 60 days of the first donation,” Taylor said. “Ideally, the blood donor center will accomplish this by having the donor complete a second donation. This not only completes the testing requirement, but it also produces more products for the program.”
Today, six of the ASBP’s donor centers — located at Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Gordon, Ga.; Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Joint Base Lewis-Chord, Wash.; Landstuhl, Germany; and the Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii — are participating in the freeze-dried program. If you would like to donate, contact the local blood donor recruiter at those locations for more information.
“For many of our wounded service members, having quality blood products available that can be administered quickly is the difference between life and death,” Fahie said. “This is an important program that will go a long way towards saving lives. We encourage you to join this elite group of donors who will help shape the future of the Armed Services Blood Program.”
For more information about the freeze-dried plasma effort, visit the ASBP website here: http://www.militaryblood.dod.mil/tech/freeze_dried_plasma.aspx.
About the Armed Services Blood Program
Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program has served as the sole provider of blood for the United States military. As a tri-service organization, the ASBP collects, processes, stores and distributes blood and blood products to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their families worldwide. As one of four national blood collection organizations trusted to ensure the nation has a safe, potent blood supply, the ASBP works closely with our civilian counterparts by sharing donors on military installations where there are no military blood collection centers and by sharing blood products in times of need to maximize availability of this national treasure. To find out more about the ASBP or to schedule an appointment to donate, please visit www.militaryblood.dod.mil. To interact directly with ASBP staff members, see more photos or get the latest news, follow @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest. Find the drop. Donate.