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U.S., U.K. Monitor Possible Untested Blood Recipients

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2008 – U.S. and British officials are monitoring fewer than 20 British soldiers who may have received U.S. blood or blood products since 2001 that did not meet U.S. testing standards.

“The United Kingdom service personnel who received the U.S. blood or blood products were in emergency medical situations on military operations,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. “Under the circumstances, an emergency blood transfusion was the only way of saving the lives of gravely wounded U.K. personnel.”

In some combat operations, fresh whole blood and platelets were collected and transfused in the field to meet demands of multiple, severe trauma cases, he said. Those blood products were not tested in the field by U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards due to the need for rapid, life-saving transfusions.

“In a few cases, emergency blood collections are used to save lives in battlefield hospitals when platelets or fresh whole blood is required to stop massive hemorrhage,” Whitman said. “These short-shelf-life blood components must come from donations collected as close as possible to the point of need and are as safe as possible within the time available.

“For the trauma surgeons, it is a matter of risk versus benefit,” he said.

Most patients in U.S. forward-deployed military hospitals receive blood collected elsewhere in U.S. Food and Drug Administration-licensed blood donor centers where blood is screened and tested accordingly. That blood is then shipped overseas.

“U.S. blood is as safe as possible in emergency situations,” Whitman said. “The U.K and U.S. cooperate closely in developing world-class, lifesaving combat medical care.”

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