Army medicine improves with new dressings
October 17, 2008
WASHINGTON -- The Army continues to improve battlefield medicine by sending two new first-aid products into theater that will potentially save more Soldiers' lives, said Army medical officials at a Pentagon press conference Oct. 15.
Test results from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's Institute of Surgical Research showed the field bandage Combat Gauze and the WoundStat granular powder both demonstrated marked improvements over what's currently used in the field said Col. Paul Cordts, Office of the Army Surgeon General.
"These products improve survival, result in less blood loss and improved post-injury blood pressures," said Cordts.
Excessive blood loss is the number one killer on the battleground, and both products are hemostatic and have the ability to stop bleeding or hemorrhaging quickly in wounds where tourniquets can't be used, said Cordts.
Measuring three inches by four yards, the gauze uses kaolin to stop the bleeding and the WoundStat is a package of granules that reacts with the blood to form a barrier, preventing more bleeding.
In this conflict more than 92 percent of wounded troops survive their injuries in combat - the highest percentage of any war, according to the U.S. Army Medical Department.
Master Sgt. Horace Tyson, a combat medic, said he attributes the high number of people being saved to the advanced tools the Army provides medics -- like hemostatic dressings.
Having recently returned from a 15-month assignment in Iraq as the senior enlisted manager in a battalion aid station in the heart of Baghdad, he said he saw first-hand the benefits of dressings with blood-clotting capabilities.
"I categorize these products as lifesavers for us," said Tyson, who now works as a senior operations manager for the USAMRMC.
A servicemember can "bleed out", or hemorrhage to death, Tyson explained, within minutes of being hurt.
"The bandages make the difference between a (Soldier) having no chance of living because he'll bleed out in five minutes versus me getting him to an aid station within 20 minutes and him staying alive," said Tyson. "Without the bandages he could be dead."
With 19 years of experience and four deployments in conflict areas under his belt, Tyson said he's seen the Army's scientific research drastically improve medics' tools and training.
"If we're going to get something else better for the battlefield, that's great," he said.
About 270,000 Combat Gauze was ordered and is expected to be in theater by the end of the year, said Lt. Col. Sean Morgan from Program Executive Office Soldier, the agency fielding most of the bandages. More than 17,000 packages of WoundStat will also be working their way to the field.
Not only are the new dressings expected to save more lives, they also bring significant cost savings to the government, said Cordts. Combat Gauze is less than $30 per dressing compared to currently-used HemCon bandage that uses chitosan from shellfish to stop blood and costs $88 per bandage. WoundStat is also less expensive than the QuikClot granules it replaces.
The Army plans to equip combat lifesavers to carry three gauzes, and eventually every Soldier will have one in their Improved First Aid Kits, said Cordts. Combat medics, who are highly trained in emergency trauma will also be given three gauzes, but will be the only ones to carry WoundStat since it requires more medical expertise to use.
Although the new hemostatic dressings are promising great improvements, Dr. David Baer, ISR's director of surgical research, said it doesn't mean the Army isn't still looking for the next line of products that could offer even more improvements. ISR scientists looked into 20 to 25 other dressings in the last few years before they discovered the Combat Gauze and WoundStat, and he said they will continue their efforts for even more cutting-edge products to save lives.
"The way I think about it is the HemCon was better than the plain gauze, this (Combat Gauze) is better than the HemCon, and it can get incrementally better," said Baer.