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Bloody Battle

Image © Commonwealth of Australia Department of Defence

Image © Commonwealth of Australia Department of Defence

By Geoffrey P. Dobson

Soldiers suffering catastrophic blood loss often die on the battlefield before they can be evacuated, but emerging science is targeting new ways to stabilise the heart and circulation to buy time and save lives.

Geoffrey P. Dobson is Personal Chair of the Heart Research Laboratory at James Cook University. He is the founding director of Hibernation Therapeutics Global Pty Ltd (www.adenocaine.com) and is the sole inventor on nine patents (issued and pending) relating to adenocaine. The research described here was recognised at the American Heart Association’s Resuscitation Science Symposium last year when he and MSc student Hayley Letson were awarded the best-of-the-best abstracts (trauma), and this year he was invited to present the resuscitation research at NATO’s Operations Medical Conference.

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Imagine that you are leading a special unit in pursuit of enemy insurgents along a mountainous track in low light conditions. You step onto a pressure plate buried just beneath the surface.

The explosion is massive. You hit the ground hard with both legs blown off. Your life has changed in a footstep.

After the dust and smoke clears, your mate arrives to assist. He sees your body rapidly bleeding out and going into shock, and notices the heel of your boot imbedded into a gaping hole in your abdomen. What can he do?

The new enemy is time. The “Golden Hour” no longer exists – your mate has only seconds to control the bleeding with tourniquets and pro-clotting bandages in what is called the Platinum 5 or 10 minutes. Your team radios for help but the hostile terrain and bad weather hampers early evacuation, so there may be a delay of many hours.

In the civilian world, we cannot imagine bodily carnage of this magnitude. Nor can we imagine the difficulties of working to save a life in a hostile environment deep in enemy territory under low light conditions, extreme temperatures, major resource limitations and prolonged evacuation times. These complicating factors, along with command and tactical decisions affecting healthcare and evacuation times, pose a different set of constraints than in the civilian pre-hospital emergency setting.

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