STAT MedEvac Aims to Reduce Trauma Deaths by Providing Plasma on Helicopters

Trauma experts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC will launch a multi-center trial this summer to see if they can improve survival of patients who have suffered traumatic injuries with uncontrolled bleeding. Paramedics will administer plasma to these patients while they are still being transported by helicopter to the hospital.

Uncontrolled bleeding is one of the leading causes of death following a traumatic injury because it can lead to multiple organ failure. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC, the Pre-hospital Air Medical Plasma Trial (PAMPer) will build on past research findings that early transfusions can lower mortality and reduce the total amount of blood transfusions required.

“If plasma treatment proves beneficial, this study could provide a new standard of care for emergency services nationwide,” said principal investigator Jason Sperry, M.D., assistant professor of surgery and critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

During the four-year study, STAT MedEvac will enroll patients with blunt or penetrating trauma and hemorrhagic shock resulting from significant blood loss who are being transported to a trauma center participating in the trial. STAT MedEvac already carries red blood cells for transfusion in these patients but not plasma because of logistical issues related to coordination between helicopters and the blood bank.  Plasma will be added to the helicopters in this study in one- month, randomized intervals.

“A quarter of patients with these types of traumatic injuries present with a tendency toward bleeding, which is associated with death occurring in a relatively short time.  Plasma reduces bleeding.  By bringing the plasma to patients before they even get to the hospital, we may reduce the potential for death,” Dr. Sperry said.

Because patients who have suffered these kinds of injuries are likely unable to consent to participation in the trial, the PAMPer study will be conducted under a federally authorized exception from informed consent process that includes a means to opt out of inclusion. Community members who do not wish to participate in this research study can obtain a bracelet to opt out by contacting Meghan Buck at 412.864.1599, or email at buckml@upmc.edu.

The research will be performed at UPMC Presbyterian and five other medical centers in the United States.  More information is available at www.acutecareresearch.org.

A video of Dr. Sperry discussing the PAMPer trial is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWgC1nXwGwE&feature=youtu.be.