The Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) is the first medical service in Canada to begin stocking blood in advance for life-saving transfusions on air medical missions. The STARS base in Saskatoon is now the third base to come on line.
This new approach, spearheaded by Saskatoon Health Region's Hospital Transfusion Lab staff, allows the helicopter emergency medical service to begin a blood transfusion early. The first hour of emergency care is nicknamed "the golden hour" because lives can be saved if critically ill patients can be stabilized before arrival at a trauma centre.
"We know how important it is for people to begin receiving blood after a traumatic injury and the difference it can make in saving a life," says Dr. Karen Dallas, Saskatoon Health Region & Northern Saskatchewan's Medical Director for Transfusion Medicine. "When it became possible for STARS to begin carrying blood on board, we wanted to support the initiative to ensure patients are getting the care they need before they get to the hospital."
STARS maintains, at their base, two units of O negative blood (packed red blood cells) supplied by Saskatoon's Transfusion Medicine Department, securely enclosed in a six kilogram (13 pound) insulated thermal cooler with a monitoring device to ensure proper temperature. If the blood is not used within 72 hours, it is returned to the hospital, inspected to ensure quality, and then made available to other patients.
"In trauma, blood can make the difference between life and death. It is inspiring to see Saskatchewan leading the way by providing our citizens this game changing roadside treatment that very few other services in North America provide," says Dr. John Froh, Transport Physician and Medical Director, for STARS in Saskatoon.
Dr. Froh says, "Our new ability to give blood is a powerful complement to our established clinical strategy of highly trained air medical crews providing critical care while rapidly transporting the severely injured trauma patient to our provincial trauma centres for definitive care."
STARS is a non-profit helicopter air ambulance organization that provides rapid and specialized emergency care and transportation for critically ill and injured patients. Our doctors, nurses, paramedics, and pilots work with a team of dedicated support staff and community partners to save lives. STARS operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week from bases in Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie and Winnipeg.
Saskatoon Health Region manages trauma centres at Royal University Hospital and St. Paul's Hospital that serve critically-injured patients from across northern Saskatchewan. The region's laboratory also supplies the blood for transfusion while patients are in transport.
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