Life-Saving Whole Blood is Now Carried on All Air Methods Medical Helicopters in Nebraska


Improving patient outcomes by transfusing donated whole blood during transports

OMAHA, NE, May 01, 2024 – The LifeNet, TriCity LifeNet, and StarCare programs across Nebraska are proud to announce they now carry and can administer whole blood onboard every air medical transport. These programs are all part of Air Methods, the leading air medical service provider in the nation. Having whole blood aboard their helicopters allows their industry-leading trauma clinicians to provide additional life-saving care when every minute counts.

“Whole blood has been studied and proven to provide better outcomes of trauma patients versus administration of packed red blood cells (PRBCs),” said Base Outreach Coordinator and TriCity LifeNet Flight Nurse Luke Ballmer. “It is the best product for the human body, offering better and faster outcomes for the patient.”

Each unit of whole blood provides red blood cells, platelets, plasma, and clotting factors for superior outcomes for patients suffering from trauma or hemorrhagic shock. It is particularly valuable in rural areas where there may be limited access to donated blood. Since the Air Methods programs all carry their own blood supply, their clinicians can administer it in-flight while preserving hospital stock. The crews previously carried packed red blood cells and plasma and are excited to now carry whole blood which delivers oxygen around the body more effectively.   

A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons found that whole blood transfusions improve the 30-day survival rate of patients suffering from hemorrhagic shock by 60 percent. The earlier patients receive whole blood, the better their outcomes, showing the significance of pre-hospital transfusion. Moderately to severely injured patients, including those with head injuries, particularly benefit from whole blood transfusions.

“Having whole blood on board means Nebraskans have access to critical lifesaving interventions in trauma scenarios,” said Derek Strohman, account executive with Air Methods. “We can administer this resource immediately at the scene, then the patient can be flown directly to a higher-level trauma center for definitive surgery and further long-term care.”  

The benefits of administering whole blood were accentuated during World War I and in the early stages of World War II. According to the National Institutes of Health, the ability to separate blood into its different components was developed in 1940, and it became more common to administer blood products due, in part, to the improved ability to store them. However, blood components don’t carry oxygen as well as whole blood, and during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the military brought whole blood transfusion back into favor. Doctors found that using warm whole blood allowed trauma patients to recover faster and live longer. Additionally, using universal, low-titer O blood is not only safe in both children and adults, but it also eliminates the time needed to test patients for blood type in an emergency.  

All Air Methods clinicians have at least three years of experience in an emergency or intensive care setting before joining a flight crew. They receive ongoing advanced training, and every nurse and paramedic has access to Air Methods Ascend, an in-person and online training program that allows clinicians to perform at the top of their licensure. Air Methods Ascend is available to medical personnel across the country.


About Air Methods:
Air Methods ( is the nation’s leading air medical service, delivering lifesaving care to more than 100,000 people every year. With over 40 years of air medical experience, Air Methods is the preferred partner for hospitals and one of the largest community-based providers of air medical services. Air Methods’ fleet of owned, leased, or maintained aircraft features approximately 400 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Air Methods Ascend is the company’s clinical education program, allowing critical care nurses and paramedics best-in-class training opportunities using high-fidelity mannequins, virtual reality, and cadaver labs.

Denisse Coffman
Air Methods