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NGMC and Regional Trauma Advisory Committee Changing How Blood Transfusions Save Lives

Published on November 21, 2019

Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) and the Region 2 Regional Trauma Advisory Committee (RTAC) are partnering on new blood transfusion programs that will increase trauma patients' chances of surviving both in ambulances and at the hospital.

Starting in early 2020, NGMC will be the lead agency in a state-approved pilot program that will allow EMS teams in four counties - Dawson, Habersham, Jackson and White - to provide blood transfusions to patients who need them during long ambulance rides.

"The RTAC team worked for months to create a proposal to develop a pre-hospital blood transfusion program, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to carry out a pilot project in our region," said Dr. Nathan Creel, a trauma surgeon at NGMC and member of Region 2 RTAC. "This program is unprecedented in the state of Georgia."

Currently, in Georgia, only air medical helicopters staffed with a registered nurse and a paramedic can initiate blood transfusions. Unfortunately, occasional bad weather or limited availability mean helicopters aren’t always an option in critical situations.

"The goal of the pilot program is to prove blood products can be safely administered by paramedics in ground ambulances," said Chad Black, chairman for Region 2 RTAC. “I'm constantly proud of the healthcare workers in our region who go above and beyond to develop new programs to improve patient outcomes. We have no doubt that this program will not only save many lives, but also serve as a model for other regions in our state."

In addition to the pilot program, NGMC is also among the first hospitals in the state and nation to now offer whole blood transfusions. That means any patient who suffers major blood loss - which can occur during childbirth, surgery, traumatic accidents or various other situations - can be treated with whole blood for increased chance of survival.

Historically, civilian hospitals like NGMC have only provided component blood therapy. Component blood therapy involves separating donated blood into packed red blood cells, plasma and platelets - then transfusing the different components depending on each patient's specific need. However, military research has found infusing whole blood can improve outcomes for actively hemorrhaging patients.

"Whole blood transfusions are not typically seen in civilian hospitals across the United States, especially in non-urban areas, so we're proud to offer this life-saving treatment close to home for people in Northeast Georgia," said Jesse Gibson, trauma program manager for NGMC. "We will still offer component blood therapy as well, which means we have more tools in our arsenal to care for our community."

NGMC Gainesville is a nationally-verified Level II Trauma Center. Learn more about the advanced services provided, and read an annual report full of stories about real patients whose lives were saved, at www.nghs.com/trauma.

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