Special effects artists help fill training gaps for combat medics
February 29, 2008
ORLANDO - According to reports in the news journal Military Medicine, the leading cause of preventable death is extremity bleeding, usually the result of blast injuries from roadside and car bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. Most medics and Soldiers are not prepared to treat these types of horrific injures.
The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Simulation and Training Technology Center is performing research in the area of severe trauma simulation that will improve materials, molding techniques, wound types, smells, and fluids in simulated wounds.
In the civilian world, medical professionals face the "golden hour," meaning there is typically one hour from the time a patient calls 911 to the point of surgery. However, in combat, medics face what is known as the "platinum 10 minutes;" as the medic's actions in the first 10 minutes is critical to the rate of survivability. Soldiers can be held in triage for up to 24 hours so those first few minutes a medic spends with a patient can be the difference between life and death.
To assist in the creation of highly realistic injuries STTC awarded a Small Business Innovative Research contract to dNovus RDI Inc. dNovus, led by Dr. Thomas Bevan, Vice President of the Research and Development Division. They are a subcontracted renowned special effects company M5 Industries, headed up by Jamie Hyneman of the Discovery Channel's series MythBusters.
Lt. Col. Ray Compton, director of the STTC said, "The STTC has leveraged the experience of Hollywood film makers for years. Now we are leveraging the expertise of special effects artists to bring about an unprecedented level of realism for training medics and Soldiers."
Recently, the teams met at M5 Industries, headquarters in San Francisco, for a design review. Hyneman discussed current technologies used as well as challenges encountered with materials and processes. An early prototype of a remarkably realistic lower torso trainer was demonstrated to the team. It consists of two amputations (one at right angle and another oblique). The amputation has bones sticking out, several lacerations of various depths and widths, bruising and singed hair.
"Partnering with the special effects industry, we are trying to close the gap between the state of current moulage technologies and what we envision to be the next generation of severe trauma simulations," stated Teresita Sotomayor, the STTC lead engineer for the project.
M5 Industries, under the leadership of Hyneman, is working on how to make the leg flounce around like a bluefish out of water to make applying the tourniquet even more difficult. "They have done remarkable scientific work in evaluating different skins for feel and durability," remarked Bill Pike, Science and Technology Manager at STTC. In addition to the incredibly realistic appearance, M5 Industries will create the capability for making the leg move, thus making tourniquet application more difficult than on static mannequins.
The team received a tour of the facilities highlighting materials and methods utilized by M5 Industries in the construction of the prototype. In addition the team held discussions on operational testing. STTC is currently investigating sites for dNovus to introduce their prototype prior to conducting user testing in the September-January timeframe.