Tag Archives: military

Prehospital burn management in a combat zone.

A military study revealed troops suffering from severe burns tended to receive either no prehospital fluid or too much fluid1.
The authors point out some practical realities and an attempted solution:

For a medic potentially treating multiple casualties at once in a hostile environment, the calculation of the modified Brooke or Parkland formula may be unrealistic prior to beginning fluid resuscitation in the prehospital setting.

The USAISR’s Rule of 10 is a simplified formula to guide the initial fluid resuscitation of a burn victim. The burn size is estimated to the nearest 10% TBSA. For patients weighing 40 to 80 kg, the burn size is then multiplied by 10 to give the initial fluid rate in milliliters per hour. The rate is increased by 100 mL/hour for every 10 kg above 80 kg in terms of the patient’s weight. For the majority of adult burn patients, the Rule of 10 approximates the initial fluid rate within accepted ABA guidelines.

A previous study on the rule of 10 showed it provided an estimate that fell between the modified Brooke and Parkland estimates 87.8% of the time, less than the modified Brooke <12% of the time, and hardly ever (>1%) exceeded the Parkland estimate2.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this article is to provide a descriptive study of the management of burns in the prehospital setting of a combat zone.

METHODS: A retrospective chart review was performed of U.S. casualties with >20% total-body-surface-area thermal burns, transported from the site of injury to Ibn Sina Combat Support Hospital (CSH) between January 1, 2006, and August 30, 2009.

RESULTS: Ibn Sina CSH received 225 burn casualties between January 2006 and August 2009. Of these, 48 met the inclusion criteria. The mean Injury Severity Score was 31.7 (range 4 to 75). Prehospital vascular access was obtained in 24 casualties (50%), and 20 of the casualties received fluid resuscitation. Out of the 48 casualties enrolled, 28 (58.3%) did not receive prehospital fluid resuscitation. Of the casualties who received fluid resuscitation, nearly all received volumes in excess of the guidelines established by the American Burn Association and those recommended by the Committee for Tactical Combat Casualty Care. With regard to pain management in the prehospital setting, 13 casualties (27.1%) received pain medication.

CONCLUSIONS: With regard to the prehospital fluid resuscitation of primary thermal injury in the combat zone, two extremes were noted. The first group did not receive any fluid resuscitation; the second group was resuscitated with fluid volumes higher than those expected if established guidelines were utilized. Pain management was not uniformly provided to major burn casualties, even in several with vascular access. These observations support improved education of prehospital personnel serving in a combat zone.

1. Prehospital burn management in a combat zone
Prehosp Emerg Care, 2012 vol. 16 (2) pp. 273-276
2. Simple derivation of the initial fluid rate for the resuscitation of severely burned adult combat casualties: in silico validation of the rule of 10
J Trauma. 2010 Jul;69 Suppl 1:S49-54

Exsanguinating cardiac arrest not always fatal

The British Military has developed a reputation for aggressive pre-hospital critical care including (but not limited to) the use of blood products and tourniquets, and coordinated field hospital trauma care. They now report the outcomes for patients with traumatic cardiac arrest, mainly from improvised explosive devices. Of 52 patients, 14 (27%) demonstrated return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC), of whom four (8%) survived to hospital discharge with a neurologically good recovery. Resuscitative thoracotomy (RT) was performed on 12 patients (8 in the ED), including all four survivors. RT enabled open-chest CPR, release of pericardial tamponade, lung resection and compression of the descending thoracic aorta for haemorrhage control.
No patients who arrested in the field survived, although one of the neurologically well-recovered survivors arrested during transport to hospital and was in cardiac arrest for 24 minutes. The authors propose this individual’s survival was in part due to ‘the high level of care that he received during retrieval, including haemorrhage control, tracheal intubation and transfusion of blood products‘.
Asystole was universally associated with death but agonal / bradycardic rhythms were not. In keeping with other studies, cardiac activity on ultrasound was associated with ROSC.

AIM: To determine the characteristics of military traumatic cardiorespiratory arrest (TCRA), and to identify factors associated with successful resuscitation.

METHODS: Data was collected prospectively for adult casualties suffering TCRA presenting to a military field hospital in Helmand Province, Afghanistan between 29 November 2009 and 13 June 2010.

RESULTS: Data was available for 52 patients meeting the inclusion criteria. The mean age (range) was 25 (18-36) years. The principal mechanism of injury was improvised explosive device (IED) explosion, the lower limbs were the most common sites of injury and exsanguination was the most common cause of arrest. Fourteen (27%) patients exhibited ROSC and four (8%) survived to discharge. All survivors achieved a good neurological recovery by Glasgow Outcome Scale. Three survivors had arrested due to exsanguination and one had arrested due to pericardial tamponade. All survivors had arrested after commencing transport to hospital and the longest duration of arrest associated with survival was 24min. All survivors demonstrated PEA rhythms on ECG during arrest. When performed, 6/24 patients had ultrasound evidence of cardiac activity during arrest; all six with cardiac activity subsequently exhibited ROSC and two survived to hospital discharge.

CONCLUSION: Overall rates of survival from military TCRA were similar to published civilian data, despite military TCRA victims presenting with high Injury Severity Scores and exsanguination due to blast and fragmentation injuries. Factors associated with successful resuscitation included arrest beginning after transport to hospital, the presence of electrical activity on ECG, and the presence of cardiac movement on ultrasound examination.

Outcomes following military traumatic cardiorespiratory arrest: A prospective observational study
Resuscitation. 2011 Sep;82(9):1194-7

Military vascular injury to the torso is deadly

Outcomes are described for military personnel with vascular injury sustained in Afghanistan and Iraq.

BACKGROUND: Military injuries to named blood vessels are complex limb- and life-threatening wounds that pose significant difficulties in prehospital and surgical management. The aim of this study was to provide a comprehensive description of the epidemiology, treatment and outcome of vascular injury among service personnel deployed on operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
METHODS: Data from the British Joint Theatre Trauma Registry were combined with hospital records to review all cases of vascular trauma in deployed service personnel over a 5-year interval ending in January 2008.
RESULTS: Of 1203 injured service personnel, 110 sustained injuries to named vessels; 66 of them died before any surgical intervention. All 25 patients who sustained an injury to a named vessel in the abdomen or thorax died; 24 did not survive to undergo surgery and one casualty in extremis underwent a thoracotomy, but died. Six of 17 patients with cervical vascular injuries survived to surgical intervention; two died after surgery. Of 76 patients with extremity vascular injuries, 37 survived to surgery with one postoperative death. Interventions on 38 limbs included 19 damage control procedures (15 primary amputations, 4 vessel ligations) and 19 definitive limb revascularization procedures (11 interposition vein grafts, 8 direct repairs), four of which failed necessitating three amputations.
CONCLUSION: In operable patients with extremity injury, amputation or ligation is often required for damage control and preservation of life. Favourable limb salvage rates are achievable in casualties able to withstand revascularization. Despite marked progress in contemporary battlefield trauma care, torso vascular injury is usually not amenable to surgical intervention.

Outcome after vascular trauma in a deployed military trauma system
Br J Surg. 2011 Feb;98(2):228-34

Military trauma care meets standards

Recent recommendations were made regarding trauma care in the UK by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD).
British military physicians at the UK military field hospital, Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, evaluated their trauma cases against these standards. It is apparent that the trauma care provided to some people in Afghanistan outclasses that delivered within much of the UK.

Military medical teams

Background The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) report on trauma management, published in 2007, defined standards for United Kingdom (UK) hospitals dealing with trauma. This study compared the NCEPOD standards with the performance of a UK military field hospital in Afghanistan. Setting UK military field hospital, Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Materials and methods Data were collected prospectively for all patients fulfilling the trauma team activation criteria during the 3 months of Operation Herrick IXa (from mid October 2008 to mid January 2009) and combined with a retrospective review of prehospital documentation, trauma resuscitation notes, operations notes and transfer notes for these patients.
Results During the study period, there were 226 trauma team activations. Of those patients brought to the medical facility at Camp Bastion by UK assets, 93.7% were accompanied by a doctor with advanced airway skills, although only 6.2% of the patients required such an intervention. Consultants in emergency medicine and anaesthesia were present in 100% of cases and were directly involved (in either leading the team or performing airway management) in 63.5% and 77.6% of cases respectively. Of those patients requiring operative intervention, 98.1% had this performed by a consultant surgeon. Of those patients requiring CT, 93.6% of cases had this performed within 1 h of arrival.
Conclusions Trauma patients presenting to the medical facility at Camp Bastion during Operation Herrick IXa, irrespective of their nationality or background, received a high standard of medical care when compared with the NCEPOD standards

National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death recommendations
Pre-hospital care
All agencies involved in trauma management, including emergency medical services, should be integrated into the clinical governance programmes of a regional trauma service. Airway management in trauma patients is often challenging, and the pre-hospital response for these patients should include someone with the skill to secure the airway, (including the use of rapid sequence intubation), and maintain adequate ventilation.
Hospital reception
A trauma team should be available 24 h a day, 7 days a week. This is an essential part of an organised trauma response system. A consultant must be the team leader for the management of the severely injured patient.
Airway and breathing
The current structure of prehospital management is insufficient. There is a high incidence of failed intubation and a high incidence of patients arriving at hospital with a partially or completely obstructed airway. Change is urgently required to provide a system that reliably provides a clear airway with good oxygenation and control of ventilation. This may be through the provision of personnel with the ability to provide anaesthesia and intubation in the prehospital phase or through the use of alternative airway devices.
Trauma laparotomy is extremely challenging and requires consultant presence within the operating theatre. If CT is to be performed, all necessary images should be obtained at the same time, and routine use of head-to-toe scanning is recommended in the adult trauma patient if no indication for immediate intervention exists.
Head injuries
Patients with severe head injury should have a CT of the head performed as soon as possible after admission and within 1 hour of arrival at the hospital. All patients with severe head injury should be transferred to a neurosurgical critical care centre irrespective of the requirement for surgical intervention.
There should be standardised transfer documentation of patient details, injuries, results of investigations and management, with records kept at the dispatching and receiving hospitals.
A comparison of civilian (National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death) trauma standards with current practice in a deployed field hospital in Afghanistan.
Emerg Med J 2011;28:310-312

Bum crack fluid pump

Military guys are great at coming up with practical solutions. Need to infuse fluid in the field but have no pressure bag or drip stand? Putting the bag under the patient’s body can squeeze fluid in, but the best place under the patient wasn’t known. A volunteer military study infusing saline through a 14G cannula compared six under-body locations: heels, buttock cleft, sacrum, interscapular region, cervical spine and occiput.
The buttock cleft was best.

Using body weight as a pre-hospital fluid infusion device: the relationship between under-body position and flow rate.
J R Army Med Corps. 2008 Mar;154(1):31-3
Full text article

UK Military Clinical Guidelines

In the United Kingdom, The Academic Department of Military Emergency Medicine at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine produces Clinical Guidelines for Operations on behalf of Surgeon General under the direction of Defence Professor of Emergency Medicine.
These guidelines, last updated in May 2010, are available on line here:

**UPDATE JUNE 2011** I have received correspondence that this document is now out of date. The link is however still active and the document makes for interesting reading.

Tactical Combat Casualty Care

The brave men and women of the military not only risk their lives for us – they also provide a wealth of trauma experience and publish interesting stuff.
This month’s Journal of Trauma contains a military trauma supplement. One of the articles describes the latest guidelines on Tactical Combat Casualty Care. These include:

  • tourniquet use
  • Quikclot Combat Gauze as the haemostatic agent which has replaced Quikclot powder and HemCon. This preference is based on field experience that powder and granular agents do not work well in wounds in which the bleeding vessel is at the bottom of a narrow wound tract or in windy environments. WoundStat was a backup agent but this has been removed because of concerns over possible embolic and thrombotic complications.
  • longer catheters for decompression of tension pneumothorax (Harcke et al. found a mean chest wall thickness of 5.36 cm in 100 autopsy computed tomography studies of military fatalities. Several of the cases in their autopsy series were noted to have had unsuccessful attempts at needle thoracostomy because the needle/catheter units used for the procedure were too short to reach the pleural space*.)
  • close open chest wounds immediately with an occlusive material, such as Vaseline gauze, plastic wrap, foil, or defibrillator pads
  • a rigid eye shield and antibiotics for penetrating eye injury

Tactical Combat Casualty Care: Update 2009
The Journal of TRAUMA 2010;69(1):S10-13 (no abstract available)
Full text of guidelines in PDF at itstactical.com
*Harcke HT, Pearse LA, Levy AD, Getz JM, Robinson SR. Chest wall thickness in military personnel: implications for needle thoracentesis in tension pneumothorax. Mil Med. 2007;172:1260 –1263

Military pre-hospital thoracotomy

Military doctors in Afghanistan reviewed their experience of thoracotomy done within 24 hours of admission to their hospital. The ballistic nature of thoracic penetrating trauma (mainly Afghan civilians without body armour) differs from the typical knife-wound related injury seen in survivors of thoracotomy reported in the pre-hospital literature.
Six of the patients presented in cardiac arrest – four PEA and two asystole. One of the PEA patients survived; this patient had sustained a thoracoabdominal GSW and had arrested 8 minutes from hospital. Following emergency thoracotomy, aortic control, and concomitant massive transfusion, return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) was achieved and damage control surgery undertaken in both chest and abdomen.
The two patients in asystole had sustained substantial pulmonary and hilar injuries, and ROSC was never achieved. The patients in PEA all had arrested as a consequence of hypovolaemia from solid intra-abdominal visceral haemorrhage. All patients in PEA had ROSC achieved, albeit temporarily.
Following thoracotomy, patients required surgical manoeuvres such as pulmonary hilar clamping, packing and temporary aortic occlusion; hypovolaemia was the leading underlying cause of the cardiac arrest. These factors lead the authors to conclude that although isolated cardiac wounds do feature in war, they are unusual and the injury pattern of casualties in conflict zones are often complex and multifactorial.
Is pre-hospital thoracotomy necessary in the military environment?
Injury. 2010 Jul;41(7):1008-12

Battlefield resuscitation

An excellent review of the current British military practice to prevent and treat the acute coagulopathy of trauma shock (ACoTS) describes pathophysiology and treatment options and offers an algorithm for management. Key components of the system (when indicated according to their algorithm) outlined include:

  • Pre-hospital damage control shock resuscitation by a forward medical team, consisting of RSI with reduced dose thio or ketamine with suxamethonium or rocuronium, large bore sublclavian access, and early use of warmed blood products
  • 1:1:1 packed red cells, fresh frozen plasma, and platelets,
  • Cryoprecipitate
  • Tranexamic acid
  • Recombinant activated factor VII
  • Permissive hypotension aiming for a systolic BP of 90 mmHg, using blood products and avoiding vasopressors according to a ‘flow rather than pressure’ philosophy
  • Avoiding hypothermia by giving warmed blood products and employing active patient warming methods
  • Buffering acidosis using Tris-hydroxymethyl aminomethane (THAM), which may be superior to bicarbonate by not affecting minute ventilation or coagulation, and maintaining its efficacy in hypothermic conditions
  • Minimising hypoperfusion with an anaesthetic strategy that provides effective analgesia and vasodilation, using high dose fentanyl and a low concentration volatile agent
  • Using fresh whole blood for resistant coagulopathy

Battlefield resuscitation
Curr Opin Crit Care. 2009 Dec;15(6):527-35

Ballistic penetrating neck injury and the risk of immobilisation

British military physicians reported the outcomes of patients sustaining penetrating neck injury from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Three quarters were injured in explosions, one quarter from gunshots.
Of 90 patients, only 1 of the 56 survivors to reach a surgical facility sustained an unstable cervical spine injury that required surgical stabilisation. This patient later died as result of a co-existing head injury. The authors conclude that penetrating ballistic trauma to the neck is associated with a high mortality rate, and their data suggest that it is very unlikely that penetrating ballistic trauma to the neck will result in an unstable cervical spine in survivors. In a hazardous environment the risk/benefit ratio of mandatory spinal immobilisation is unfavourable and may place medical teams at prolonged risk, and cervical collars may hide potential life-threatening conditions.
Learning the lessons from conflict: Pre-hospital cervical spine stabilisation following ballistic neck trauma
Injury. 2009 Dec;40(12):1342-5