Frozen blood products that have been used to treat wounded soldiers in Afghanistan are to be tested for use in hospitals across Australia, to cut out transportation delays of several hours and potentially save lives.
Fresh platelets are commonly used in hospitals to help wounds clot and heal, but currently suffer serious distribution problems because they have a shelf life of just five days.
The short use-by date means many non-teaching hospitals that see trauma cases irregularly cannot stock the platelets, which are shipped in the form of a straw-colored fluid, because they would be likely to expire before they could be used.
But Australian military doctors are gathering support for a pilot study of the effectiveness of frozen platelets, using a technique developed by the US Navy more than 30 years ago but largely forgotten until recently.
Lieutenant Colonel Michael Reade, defense professor of military medicine and surgery at the University of Queensland, said the technique, which had been successfully used by Dutch and Australian military doctors in Afghanistan, could be of "enormous benefit" to many rural and suburban hospitals.
Such hospitals often have to order platelets at short notice from city-center blood banks then wait up to six hours while trauma victims require urgent treatment.
"We think this frozen platelet technique is potentially beneficial, not only for the defense force but also for the vast majority of non-teaching hospitals," Reade told The Australian.
The US has never implemented the technique because it relies instead on "walk-in" blood banks, where soldiers donate blood to be used on their wounded colleagues.