McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliate member David Baer, PhD, Director of Surgical Research, U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's Institute of Surgical Research (ISR), Ft. Sam Houston, TX, and his colleagues there in the last few years have looked into about two dozen hemostatic dressings for use on the battlefield. The Pentagon medical officials announced recently that two new first-aid products are being sent into the combat theater and they could save more service members' lives.
Test results from the ISR showed Combat Gauze field bandages and WoundStat granules both demonstrated marked improvements over what's currently used in the field, Army Col. (Dr.) Paul Cordts of the Army surgeon general's office said.
"These products improve survival, result in less blood loss, and improved post-injury blood pressures," he said.
Excessive blood loss is the No. 1 killer on the battleground, Dr. Cordts, a surgeon, said. Both products can stop bleeding quickly in wounds where tourniquets can't be used, he said. Combat Gauze uses kaolin, a fine, white clay, to stop bleeding, he said, and WoundStat granules react with blood to form a barrier, preventing more bleeding.
More than 92 percent of troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan survive their injuries in combat, the highest percentage of any war, according to U.S. Army Medical Department officials. Army Master Sgt. Horace Tyson, a combat medic, said he attributes the high number of people being saved to the advanced tools medics have, such as dressings that stop or slow blood flow from wounds.
Although the new hemostatic dressings are promising great improvements, Dr. Baer said it doesn't mean officials aren't still looking for the next line of products that could offer even more improvements. ISR scientists will continue their efforts for even more cutting-edge products to save lives, he said.
"The way I think about it is the HemCon was better than the plain gauze, [Combat Gauze] is better than the HemCon, and it can get incrementally better," Dr. Baer said.
About 270,000 12-foot strips of Combat Gauze are expected to be in theater by the end of the year, said Army Lt. Col. Sean Morgan from Program Executive Office Soldier, the agency fielding most of the bandages. More than 17,000 packages of WoundStat also will be working their way to the field, he said.
The new dressings are expected not only to save more lives, but also to bring significant cost savings to the government, Dr. Cordts said. Combat Gauze is less than $30 per dressing, compared to the currently used HemCon bandage, which uses chitosan from shrimp shells to stop blood and costs $88 per bandage. WoundStat also is less expensive than the QuikClot granules it replaces.