Attrition: Heat Stroke Is Your Friend

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May 4, 2007: Some very valuable lessons have been learned about battlefield medicine in Iraq. First, insist that the troops wear their armor when in a combat situation. At times, it's real hot in Iraq, and in the past, American commanders were willing to let the troops leave some of the armor behind. Not this time around. Even at the risk of heat stroke casualties. The armor stays on. Moreover, the armor is now much better. This has reduced the severity of many wounds. The troops were professional enough to understand why this had to be done, and they did it.

Next came the degree of medical care administered where the injuries take place. Medics in Iraq have more powerful tools for dealing with wounds, and they are allowed to use them. In effect, the medics can do a lot more, and that makes it possible to get wounded troops back to an operating room within an hour. The operating rooms are a lot closer to the fighting, and the medical evacuation helicopter crews know that, literally, every minute counts. The old adage that there is a "Golden Hour" between getting wounded, and getting into a fully equipped emergency room, is no myth. It was known to be real before 2003, and saving thousands of wounded troops since then, who otherwise would have died, since, is no accident. Before Iraq, it was common for 25 percent of wounded troops to die, usually before they could reach an operating table. Now, only ten percent die, and the overall number of combat dead, on a per capita basis, is the lowest its ever been in the U.S. military.

 


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