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Air Force Special Ops Medics to Test Freeze-dried Plasma on the Battlefield

By Charlsy Panzino, Air Force Times
French Lyophilized Plasma, freeze-dried plasma developed by the French military with U.S. military technology, has been used to successfully resuscitate critically injured U.S. Special Forces combat casualties. (Photo by Steven Galvan, USAISR Public Affairs)
French Lyophilized Plasma, freeze-dried plasma developed by the French military with U.S. military technology, has been used to successfully resuscitate critically injured U.S. Special Forces combat casualties. (Photo by Steven Galvan, USAISR Public Affairs)
Plasma makes up more than half of a person’s blood, and its clotting properties help stop bleeding —which is why medics carry the precious liquid, in frozen form, on the battlefield.

Frozen plasma needs to be kept cold, however, and lugging a freezer in combat isn’t exactly practical. That’s why the Department of Defense is working on bringing freeze-dried plasma to the U.S.

This type of plasma doesn’t need to be kept cold and is also more stable than frozen plasma. Since the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved a U.S.-sourced product yet, the military is using French-manufactured freeze-dried plasma in a joint effort to bring the technique to the States.

And Air Force Special Operations Command is part of this effort.

Air Force Lt. Col. Rebecca Carter, chief of AFSOC’s medical modernization, said the command will receive 25 units of the product from France under the FDA’s Investigational New Drug protocol. This allows the Air Force to receive the product before it receives FDA approval.

The use of freeze-dried plasma, however, is not new.

“[The U.S.] used it in World War II,” Carter said. “At the time, we did not have as reliable and accurate methods of donor screening for the blood supply,” which increased the possibility of infection.

France received approval for freeze-dried plasma from its FDA equivalent in 1994, and now the United States is working on its own approval.

Once the AFSOC medical team receives its supply of French freeze-dried plasma this month, it will be ready to deploy when needed and used to treat special operations airmen on the battlefield, Carter said. The two main branches of the command’s medical team are the operational medic support team and the special operations surgical team. They also support pararescuemen, Carter said.

Carter said each shipment of freeze-dried plasma is meant to support a single deployment cycle.

Frozen plasma must be thawed and warmed before it can be injected into a patient, she said. Frozen plasma can remain frozen for an extended period of time, but it cannot be thawed and then refrozen. Once thawed, the product starts to degrade rapidly.

With freeze-dried plasma, the water is removed and the product becomes a powder. This powder is reconstituted with sterile water and injected into the patient intravenously or via intraosseous infusion — directly into the bone.

The French product is contained in glass bottles, but Carter said the U.S. plans to hold its freeze-dried plasma in IV bags to make transporting them easier and safer.

“The French product is really a bridge product for special operations forces to get to the U.S.-sourced product,” she said. “The larger [Defense Department] community has a team of research and development professionals that are supporting projects to ensure we do have U.S.-sourced [freeze-dried plasma].”

Carter said it will probably take up to five years before the U.S. has its own freeze-dried plasma product.

“Our job is to facilitate the fielding of the product throughout the Air Force,” she said.

Army Special Operations Command was the first to use the French product in the United States, and now the Armed Services Blood Program is seeking volunteers to donate plasma in the effort for U.S.-sourced freeze-dried plasma.

Learn more about the ASBP’s freeze-dried plasma campaign here.

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 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.

The Armed Services Blood Program is a proud recipient of the Army Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Public Affairs award for journalism.

This story was originally published by the Air Force Times, March 26. Republished content may have been edited for length, clarity and to follow the ASBP style guidelines. View the original article here.