Wyoming Life Flight Air Ambulance Now Carries Life-Saving Whole Blood


Improving patient outcomes by transfusing donated whole blood to save lives in the air 

Casper, WY, March 14, 2024 – Wyoming Life Flight, based in Casper and serving the entire state of Wyoming, is proud to announce they now carry and can administer whole blood onboard every air medical transport. Wyoming Life Flight is the first and only community-based air ambulance service in the state with this capability. Having whole blood aboard their helicopter and fixed-wing plane allows their industry-leading trauma clinicians to provide additional life-saving care when every minute counts. 

“Whole blood is fantastic because it holds all of the blood components such as white blood cells, platelets, plasma, and red blood cells. This is beneficial as many patients who need blood also need additional clotting factors, such as platelets, which are not available in plasma or red blood cells,” said Stephanie Smith, a flight nurse with Wyoming Life Flight. “Patients are able to get what they need not only to replace blood that is lost but also to get the clotting factors they need to stop the bleeding, all in one unit of whole blood.”    

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 Wyoming Life Flight carries its own blood supply, its clinicians can administer it in-flight while preserving the receiving hospital’s 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.   

Smith explained that the crew has already been able to use this resource to give a patient a better chance at a positive outcome. When recently transporting a patient with internal bleeding and declining vital signs, the crew knew whole blood was needed. 

“With the help of the extra clotting factors in whole blood, this patient made it to the trauma center with stable vital signs,” said Smith. “The continued care from flight to the emergency department was seamless as the hospital continued to treat this patient with several more units of whole blood.”   

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. 

“The ability to carry whole blood on board means the people of Wyoming have access to a critical lifesaving intervention,” said Darryl Crown, account executive with Air Methods, the leading air medical service provider in the nation and the parent company of Wyoming Life Flight. “With all of the outdoor activity and rural terrain in the state, whole blood is ideal for the type of injuries we see.”   

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 when every minute counts in an emergency.    

All Wyoming Life Flight 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.