Blood container solves logistical challenge

As of a few weeks ago, the Swedish task force in Mali has been given access to one of the world's leading blood storage concepts. The result comes from a collaboration between The Netherlands and Sweden. Good access to blood is a given prerequisite for the Swedish unit in Mali to be able to operate.

Commander Börje Sidenö has been one of the driving forces behind the Dutch-Swedish collaboration project. Photo: Richard Kjaergaard/Swedish Armed Forces
Transporting blood out to the field is a logistical challenge. The new blood container makes it possible for larger volumes of blood to be stored for longer periods in the field. Photo: Richard Kjaergaard/Swedish Armed Forces

"Administering blood during the early stages of a serious injury is crucial to the further course of treatment. We often see injuries from explosive devices which result in amputations, incurring great blood loss," says Börje Sidenö.

For a blood transfusion to be effective, the three components of red blood cells, plasma and platelets are needed. The red blood cells circulate in the centre of the blood vessel, pushing the platelets towards the periphery where the damage to the blood vessel, and consequently, the leakage is found. The platelets then "patch up" the damage to the blood vessel, with the "glue" – the fibrinogen – which is found in the plasma. This causes the platelets to stick and the bleeding can be stopped.

The Blood Logistics Challenge

"Transporting blood to the field is a logistical challenge which is both costly and extremely sensitive. Blood from a hospital has a lifespan of 42 days directly after donation. When it arrives in the field with us, we may have one month left until it expires," continues Börje Sidenö.

But this new concept means that blood stocks do not need to be refilled each month.

Börje Sidenö explains that the blood container is a result of collaboration between The Netherlands and Sweden that began in 2014. The Netherlands, however, has chosen a "deep freeze" concept for all three components. Their blood products are frozen at -83 degrees and have a lifespan of 7 to 10 years.
"The advantage of this is that a large amount of components can be supplied on few occasions. The components are kept frozen and can be defrosted when needed".

The Swedish Armed Forces have sent personnel to specialist training in The Netherlands. These personnel will then manage the operations on location in Mali. The concept has been in use since 2003 in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on board all Dutch vessels that have healthcare facilities. This is the first time The Netherlands has shared the concept with another nation.

Sweden is allowed to loan containers from The Netherlands for free – the Swedish Armed Forces cover the transport costs and FMV the maintenance. Börje Sidenö believes the concept is one of the best in its field and is something that works in all the Armed Forces' environments, not least in a maritime environment.

"It's no understatement to say that this is the best blood bank in Mali and that as a result, we can also guarantee our soldiers optimum healthcare in cases of severe bleeding. Neither are we dependent upon shaky logistics chains, nor do we risk having an insufficient amount of blood when it's really needed," concludes Börje Sidenö