February 23, 2023 | Innovation, Medicine, Our Patients

New blood plan a Canadian first

An image of an IV line carrying blood products to a patient

In a Canadian first, STARS has bolstered its medical toolkit with an innovative new protocol, amplifying the life-saving care we provide to critically ill and injured patients.

STARS in Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Air Ambulance (SAA) have partnered with the provincial health authority to launch Massive Hemorrhage Protocol (MHP), making both the first air ambulances in Canada to do so.

Now, in addition to carrying blood, our medical crews have access to two other products that help stop bleeding.

“We are innovators, always looking for ways to evolve and find new opportunities to save lives and we believe this protocol will make a difference for patients,” said Dr. Dallas Pearson, transport physician and medical director of Regina and Saskatoon.

Cindy Seidl, critical care nurse and chief clinical officer at STARS, says the new protocol was developed after a need was identified by the medical crew.

These blood products are utilized in situations where the medical crew needs to administer more than two units of blood on a patient. One helps to reverse anticoagulation and the other helps blood clots to form.

An illustration showing how the new blood protocol products work to slow bleeding.

“Once we’ve transfused two units of blood and we are going to start transfusing a third unit, that’s when we must think about replacing other clotting factors,” Seidl explains. “We need to replace some of the other factors which helps your body to clot and slow the bleeding down.”

By mid-February, the protocol had been used five times by STARS and three times by SAA since launching in the spring.

STARS crews have brought blood along on missions since 2013. Initially, we stocked two units of type O negative blood. O negative is known as the “universal blood type,” as it’s safe to be given to anyone — particularly helpful in a traumatic situation when a patient urgently needs blood, and we don’t know their type. Based on need, we increased that to four units in 2019.

The blood is carried in temperature-controlled coolers and if it’s not used within 72 hours it’s placed back in the blood supply to avoid any wastage. STARS then receives fresh blood for the crew to use on the next patient who needs it.

Pearson is proud of the protocol being launched in Saskatchewan. “This program greatly improves patients’ access to potentially life-saving blood products.”

Seidl hopes to see this MHP become permanent, thanks to the strong partnership with the provincial health authority. Ideally, she said, it will be implemented at the other four STARS bases in Western Canada: Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Calgary and Winnipeg.

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