Battlefield risks and medical tech

The battle-field is always a place for cutting-edge (pun not intended) technology. Plastic surgery, for example, was apparently developed to handle the horrible toll on humans in WWI:

Never before had physicians been required to treat so many and such extensive facial and head injuries. Shattered jaws, blown-off noses and lips and gaping skull wounds caused by modern weapons required innovative restorative procedures. Some of the best medical talent in Britain, France, Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary devoted themselves to restoring the faces and lives of their countrymen during and after World War I.

Now the Guardian has a report on some of the emerging risks of the modern battlefield:

Although body armour means soldiers are now better protected, it has altered injury patterns. Limbs now bear the brunt and the most common cause of potentially avoidable battlefield death is external haemorrhage.

The result are products designed to arrest blood flow without requiring pressure points:

we have provided products that are designed particularly to control massive haemorrhage in those areas of the body that are too proximal [close to the torso] for a tourniquet and where pressure through a dressing alone is not adequate. These injuries are in the junctional areas of the groin and axilla [armpit],” says [adviser for emergency medicine covering all three armed services – and honorary professor of emergency medicine at Birmingham university, Colonel Tim] Hodgetts.

Those parts of the body are most at risk because the arteries come closest to the skin. The new products, used in Iraq and Afghanistan, are topical haemostatic (to stop bleeding) agents for application directly to the wound.

But even that may not be fast enough, and so the search for a nanotech solution is mentioned as another emerging research area to help save the lives of soldiers.

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