USAISR Research Benefits Everyone
January 19, 2012
The research conducted on tourniquets at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research is proving to be beneficial beyond the battlefield. The research that started in 2004 showed that tourniquets were effective at stopping blood loss from injuries to the arms and legs without long-term complications, saving the lives of wounded warriors. Shortly thereafter, the Department of Defense ordered that the Combat Application Tourniquet, or CAT, be issued to all troops deployed to combat.
Today, the same tourniquets that are saving lives in the battlefield are being used by paramedics to save the lives of people with life-threatening, non-combatant injuries in South Central Texas. Recently, a team of paramedics from the Emergency Medical Service in Schertz, Texas, used the CAT on a motorist whose leg had been amputated by another driver as he was changing a flat tire on the side of the road.
"He probably wouldn't have made it without it," said Jason Hedrick, the Schertz paramedic who applied the tourniquet.
According to the Schertz EMS Director Dudley Wait, this is the second time that paramedics have had to use the tourniquet since making it part of the equipment in their medic bags almost three years ago.
"They were effective both times," he said. "We decided to use that particular tourniquet because that's what the military uses. We consulted with the emergency room trauma doctors at the Brooke Army Medical Center since that's where we transport our trauma patients. We wanted to use a device that military doctors are familiar with."
Wait also said that his paramedics receive the same training that military troops are given for self-applying and applying the tourniquet to an injured comrade. The CAT is a small, lightweight device that can be applied with ease using one hand. It was selected as one of the "Army's Top 10 Inventions" in 2005, and it has been recommended for battlefield use by the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care.
"It seemed too easy to use," recalled Hedrick. "After it was on, I kept going back through the steps of applying it because it seemed too easy to apply. It's a great tool to have in our kits."
"The tourniquet was placed perfectly by U.S. Military Tactical Combat Casualty Care training standards," said Col. (Dr.) Lorne H. Blackbourne, USAISR commander and trauma surgeon.
The CAT used to save the motorist's life was identical to the tourniquet that kept Staff Sgt. Reynaldo Bermea from bleeding to death after being shot in the back of his thigh during an operation in Iraq.
"We had just finished a three-hour mission and we were being evacuated from the area," said Bermea. "I boarded a Chinook [helicopter] and we started taking on fire as we were taking off."
One of those rounds pierced through the bottom of the helicopter where he was sitting, striking him in the back of the leg and hitting the main artery. Bleeding profusely and 30 minutes from the nearest field hospital, a combat medic in the helicopter applied a tourniquet on his leg.
"I know it saved my life," said Bermea. "After it was on, I knew I was going to be fine, but I thought that I was going to lose my leg."
Four months later, Bermea volunteered to join his unit back in Iraq.
"Every time that I see patients like him [Bermea], I am reminded of the great work that is going on here at the ISR," said Col. (Dr.) Todd Rasmussen, USAISR deputy director. "Everything that we do here is for the combat wounded, and we are saving lives. It is gratifying to be part of an organization that is working for the wounded warrior and to see that the work here is saving lives away from the battlefield."