Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Saving Lives on the Battlefield

Credit: 1JPAU © Commonwealth of Australia

Credit: 1JPAU © Commonwealth of Australia

By Geoffrey Dobson

Treatments that stem blood loss after a catastrophic injury in the battlefield can damage the brain. However, a new drug strategy aims to stabilise both in the first crucial 10 minutes.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, around 87% of combat deaths occurred in the first 30 minutes before the casuality could reach a treatment facility. In a study carried out by the US military, nearly one-quarter of these deaths, almost 1000 combatants, were classified as having potentially survivable wounds. The “Golden Hour”, a term used in emergency retrieval medicine to denote the highest likelihood that prompt medical treatment will prevent death, is a meaningless concept in these far-forward military environments. The “Platinum 10 minutes” is the new window of opportunity.

Saving lives in this fast-closing window is not an easy problem. Ninety per cent of early battlefield deaths suffer catastrophic haemorrhage and 50% have traumatic brain injuries. Having both injuries is a double-edged sword because existing treatments may be good for the body but are bad for the brain, and vice versa. No drug therapy currently exists to rescue both and stabilise the combatant or victim for delayed evacuation. Buying time is the key to improving the survivability of soldiers in the first few moments after a catastrophic injury.

In the Heart, Trauma and Sepsis Laboratory at James Cook University, research associate Hayley Letson and I are collaborating with the US military to develop a one-two drug strategy to rescue the heart and dial-up the right pressure to protect...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.