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Air-drop blood supply in the French Army


Background Haemorrhagic shock remains the leading cause of preventable death in overseas and austere settings. Transfusion of blood components is critical in the management of this kind of injury. For French naval and ground military units, this supply often takes too long considering the short shelf-life of red blood cell concentrates (RBCs) and the limited duration of transport in cooling containers (five to six days). Air-drop supply could be an alternative to overcome these difficulties on the condition that air-drop does not cause damage to blood units.

Methods After a period of study and technical development of packaging, four air-drops at medium and high altitudes were performed with an aircraft of the French Air Force. After this, one air-drop was carried out at medium altitude with 10 RBCs and 10 French lyophilised plasma (FLYP). A second air-drop was performed with a soldier carrying one FLYP unit at 12 000 feet. For these air-drops real blood products were used, and quality control testing and temperature monitoring were performed.

Results The temperatures inside the containers were within the normal ranges. Visual inspection indicated that transfusion packaging and dumped products did not undergo deterioration. The quality control data on RBCs and FLYP, including haemostasis, suggested no difference before and after air-drop.

Discussion The operational implementation of the air-drop of blood products seems to be one of the solutions for the supply of blood products in military austere settings or far forward on battlefield, allowing safe and early transfusion.

  • blood products
  • supply chain
  • airdrop

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