Blood transfusion is a vital component of health care for Defence military personnel. Between 10 and 20 per cent of all military trauma patients will require a blood transfusion. Of those, up to 50 per cent will need a massive transfusion—of over 10 units of blood in 24 hours.
Blood products have a very short shelf life—five days for platelets, 42 days for red blood cells and 12 months for fresh frozen plasma. This presents a logistical challenge in ensuring sufficient blood is available for use in surgery and trauma management while minimising wastage.
The Australian Red Cross Blood Service has collaborated with the Netherlands Military Blood Bank, which pioneered frozen blood technology for use in combat zones, to develop processes that meet Australian operational requirements.
Since 2012, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service has been developing frozen blood products for the ADF for use in remote and austere environments. The ADF Frozen Blood Project has revolutionised blood management and put Australia at the forefront of frozen blood research and could pave the way to initiating trials for civilian use.
Frozen blood components have a shelf life of up to 10 years for deep-frozen red cells, and currently up to two years for cryopreserved platelets and deep-frozen plasma. For this reason, Defence forces in many countries are now looking at frozen blood components as an option to extend shelf life and overcome these logistical and clinical challenges.
The ADF stockpile currently comprises deep-frozen red cells, plasma and platelets. These are stored at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service facility in Sydney and will be supplied from the Sydney Processing Centre.