BACKGROUND: The Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) provides the farthest-reaching blood supply in the world. This article provides statistics and a review of blood operations in support of combat casualty care during the last 10 years. It also outlines changes in blood doctrine in support of combat casualty care.
METHODS: This is a descriptive overview and review of blood product use and transfusions used by ASBP personnel to support combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan between October 2001 and November 2011.
RESULTS: The ASBP initiated major changes in blood availability and age of blood in theater. In support of data published by physicians in theater, showing improved patient survival when a higher ratio of fresh frozen plasma and red blood cells (RBCs) is achieved, plus the use of platelets, the ASBP increased availability of plasma and established platelet collection facilities in theater. New capabilities included emergency collection of apheresis platelets in the battlefield, availability and transfusion of deglycerolized red cells, rapid diagnostic donor screening, and a new modular blood detachment. Forward surgical facilities that were at one time limited to a blood inventory consisting of RBCs now have a complete arsenal of products at their fingertips that may include fresher RBCs, fresh frozen plasma, cryoprecipitate, and platelets. A number of clinical practice guidelines are in place to address these processes. Changes in blood doctrine were made to support new combat casualty care and damage-control resuscitation initiatives.
CONCLUSION: Despite the challenges of war in two theaters of operation, a number of improvements and changes to blood policy have been developed during the last 10 years to support combat casualty care. The nature of medical care in combat operations will continue to be dynamic and constantly evolving. The ASBP needs to be prepared to meet future challenges.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Epidemiologic study, level IV.