Brothers in Arms

Brothers in Arms is an initiative by South Texas Blood & Tissue Center to help establish a stable, easily replenished blood product that can be used in emergency situations. San Antonio is one of the first cities to implement the program. 

The program is based on research done by the U.S. Army and the Mayo Clinic. The studies found that type O donations from men with lower levels of certain types of antibodies can be used for whole blood transfusions in patients of any blood type.

The program will be comprised of male O positive donors who meet the required levels of antibodies. BioBridge Global has also partnered with three local emergency helicopter companies who will be carrying the stored whole blood (SWB) for trauma victims, making San Antonio one of the first cities to implement this program.

When did the initiative begin?

Testing of daily collections started in October 2017. The rollout for use in emergency situations began on January 29, 2018. 

Why is the initiative so critical for medical traumas?

This initiative will transform the way trauma care is delivered at trauma scenes, onboard medical helicopters and at emergencies involving San Antonio Fire Department Command Units. 

The normal mortality rate when a trauma patient arrives at the hospital requiring massive transfusions (10 units or more in a day) is 75 percent. 

Research done by the military focused on providing whole blood transfusions earlier, since whole blood is better for replacing what the patient loses through massive bleeding. 

The military showed that adding whole blood to early transfusion protocols decreased the mortality rate from 60 percent (when patients received mainly red blood cells) to 20 percent for patients receiving whole blood, demonstrating a dramatic improvement in survival rates. The patients receiving whole blood also required fewer transfusions to keep them stabilized. 

How will members of the Brothers in Arms be identified? 

Type O-positive blood donations by men who donate at an STBTC donor room will be tested for specific antibody levels. Those below a certain threshold will be identified as potential donors for the program. 

Why only men?

Men tend to have lower levels of antibodies in their blood than women, which helps prevent reactions in patients who receive a transfusion. This is critical in emergency situations when there is no time to test a patient’s blood type.

Where will this blood be used?

Brothers in Arms whole blood is being carried on 18 medical helicopters serving South Texas, as well as on San Antonio Fire Department Command Units. 

​​​​​What are the advantages of this program?

Using stored whole blood for trauma victims has been shown to be more effective in the treatment of traumatic injuries since it contains all the major blood components: red blood cells, which are lost in bleeding; platelets, which help seal breaks in blood vessels; and plasma, which boosts blood volume. 

Are there other eligibility requirements?

Just one: Donors cannot be on an aspirin regimen, since that affects the functioning of platelets in the donated blood. 

How is BioBridge Global involved?

The blood collection will be done by STBTC and testing for antibody levels will be conducted by QualTex Laboratories, which worked with the Army to shorten testing times. 

What do you have to do?

It’s simple: Donate two to three times a year.

Male O positive donors who would like to see if they qualify to be a “Brothers in Arms” volunteer are encouraged to call 210-731-5590 to schedule an appointment for testing.