Attrition: Ultrasound on the Battlefield


July 13, 2006: One of the most common causes of death on the battlefield is bleeding to death. The introduction of the Chitosan Hemostatic Dressing (more commonly called HemCon) several years ago, changed all that. HemCon is made by taking a freeze dried substance, that causes clotting of blood, and incorporating it into what otherwise looks like a typical battlefield bandage. These dressings greatly reduce bleeding. But there are often deep wounds (especially from bullets) that cannot be reached by HemCon or a tourniquet. To deal with this problem, the U.S. Department of Defense has developed DBAC (Deep Bleeder Acoustic Coagulation). This is a device that uses ultrasound (already long used for looking inside the body) to find where the bleeding is taking place, then use higher levels of ultrasound to stop the bleeding (by inducing cauterization and coagulation.) The main problem is making the device simple enough to operate, and rugged enough, for front line medics to use it. Once you get a casualty back to a field hospital, a surgeon can go in and stop the bleeding. But for some bleeding wounds, help is needed in minutes. That's where DBAC comes in, and if development keeps moving along, the device could be in combat zones soon. While the DBAC sounds pretty amazing, keep in mind that, a decade ago, HemCon would have been considered even more improbable. Medical advances are arriving at a faster rate than at any time in history. Many people can see this by noting how much more gear emergency medical personnel carry, and use, today compared to ten or twenty years ago.


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