Wheeling region will be part of medical study

WHEELING – Victims of traumatic injury in the Wheeling area could become part of a medical study aimed at preventing people from bleeding to death en route to the hospital.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine next spring plans to conduct a three-year, randomized study that involves giving trauma patients being transported by STAT MedEvac helicopters tranexamic acid – a drug that prevents the breakdown of blood clots.

STAT MedEvac has a base in Washington, Pa., and its service area includes the Wheeling region.

Dr. Jason Sperry, principal investigator and associate professor of surgery and critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said the drug already is used successfully in hospital settings, but its use needs to be studied in medical helicopters.

“A quarter of patients with severe traumatic injuries present with a tendency toward bleeding, which is associated with death occurring in a relatively short time. By bringing this drug to patients before they even get to the hospital, we may save lives,” Sperry said. “This drug has been used for a long time in cardiac patients and others.”

To determine if there are side effects in a pre-hospital setting such as a helicopter, a placebo will also be used. By making the study blind for the patient and care provider, there won’t be any bias, he said.

People who do not want to be part of the study can opt out ahead of time by contacting UPMC for a bracelet that states so. To receive the opt-out bracelet, call Meghan Buck at 412-864-1599 or email her at buckml@upmc.edu.

Normally people can opt out of a study, but trauma victims typically are unconscious and cannot do so. Those who do not receive the bracelet and are victims of trauma would automatically be included in the study due to a 1996 federal law that provides exceptions to the informed consent rule.

Patients with a blunt or penetrating trauma who are at risk of bleeding to death would be included in the study. When a person is severely injured, the body’s blood clotting process can begin to break down and cause more bleeding.

Dr. Francis Guyette, medical director at STAT MedEvac, said his company transports about 100 patients from Hancock, Brooke, Ohio and Marshall counties each year from accident scenes to UPMC. In addition to the base in Washington, Pa., the company also has a base in Wintersville.

He noted the trauma patients must be en route to UPMC Presbyterian to be part of the study. That hospital has a machine, called a thromboelastogram, that must be used to test the patient’s blood for clotting factors.

He added if the closest medical facility to the accident scene is another hospital, such as Ruby Memorial in Morgantown, the patient would be taken there and not be included in the study.