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Workload of Swedish Special Forces Operators Experienced During Stressful Simulation Training: A Pilot Study

Hindorf M, Berggren P, Jonson C, Lundberg L, Jonsson A 22(3). 42 - 48 (Journal Article)

Introduction: Stress week was included during training of Special Forces (SF) Operators in Sweden to test their ability and limits for handling stress in different unknown situations and environments at a military training facility in Sweden. The aim of the study was to examine the effects of stress and workload experienced in various tasks during firefighting and military medicine simulation training. Methods: This pilot study was performed during the second day of stress week. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Task Load Index (NASA-TLX) is a validated, subjective, and multidimensional assessment tool for rating perceived workload with six subscales: mental demand, physical demand, temporal demand, performance, effort, and frustration. These subscales were used as an indicator of stress experienced. The different tasks were assessed by the SF Operators by rating the NASA-TLX subscales for each task, which were then analyzed and compared using ANOVA. Results: There was a significant difference between the two simulation exercises assessed by the participants and instructors, and both groups considered firefighting to be more demanding than medical. The participants perceived the mental and physical demands as more demanding in the firefighting exercises, as well as for the level of frustration and effort. However, no differences regarding performance or temporal demands between the simulation exercises were found. Conclusion: The principle "train as you fight" implies difficult and demanding situations. When exposing Swedish SF Operators to challenging situations, assessment of perceived stress and performance are possible.

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Generating Competent Special Operations Clinicians From Military Graduate Medical Education

Hiller HM, Hill GJ, Shea S, Fernandes J, Earl K, Knight J, Schaffrinna A, Donham B, Allen PB 22(3). 37 - 41 (Journal Article)

Units within the Special Operations Forces (SOF) community require medically competent and operationally proficient medical providers (physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners, among others) to support complex mission sets. The expectations placed on providers who successfully assess for and are selected into these units are high. These providers are not only expected to be experts in their respective subspecialities, but also to serve as staff officers, provide medical direction for SOF medics, serve as medical advisors to the command team, and provide direct medical support for kinetic operations. They are expected to perform these functions with little oversight and guidance and when geographically separated from higher units. Graduates from military Graduate Medical Education (GME) programs are extremely well-educated and can provide high quality medical care. However, they often find themselves ill-prepared for the extra demands placed upon them by the Special Operations community due to a lack of operational exposure. The authors of this paper recognized this gap and propose that the Joint Emergency Medicine Exercise (JEMX) model can help augment the body of knowledge required to perform well as a provider in a Special Operations unit.

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A Lost Opportunity: The Use of Unorthodox Training Methods for Prehospital Trauma Care

McCarthy J, Lauria MJ, Fisher AD 22(3). 29 - 35 (Journal Article)

Prehospital trauma care guidelines and instruction have advanced significantly over the past 20 years. Although there have been efforts to create a standardized approach to instruction, the use of unorthodox techniques that lack supporting evidence persists. Many instructors use unrealistic scenarios, "no-win" scenarios, and unavoidable failing situations to train students. Doing so, however, creates student confusion and frustration and can result in poor skill acquisition. These training techniques should be reconsidered, with focus placed instead on the development of technical skills and far skill transfer. Knowing when to apply the appropriate type and level of stress within a training scenario can maximize student learning and knowledge retention. Furthermore, modalities such as deliberate practice, cognitive load theory (CLT), and stress exposure training (SET) should be incorporated into training. To improve delivery of prehospital trauma education, instructors should adopt evidence-based educational strategies, grounded in educational and cognitive science, that are targeted at developing long-term information retention as well as consistent, accurate, and timely life-saving interventions.

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Active Warfighter Resilience: A Descriptive Analysis

Barczak-Scarboro NE, Cole WR, DeFreese JD, Fredrickson BL, Kiefer AW, Bailar-Heath M, Burke RJ, DeLellis SM, Kane SF, Lynch JH, Means GE, Depenbrock PJ, Mihalik JP 22(3). 22 - 28 (Journal Article)

Purpose: Our aim in this study was to psychometrically test resilience assessments (Ego Resiliency Scale [ER89], Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale [CD-RISC 25], Responses to Stressful Experiences Scale [RSES short-form]) and describe resilience levels in a Special Operations Forces (SOF) combat sample. Methods: Fifty-eight SOF combat Servicemembers either entering SOF (career start; n = 38) or having served multiple years with their SOF organization (mid-career; n = 20) self-reported resilience, mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) history, and total military service. Results: All resilience metrics demonstrated acceptable internal consistency, but ceiling effects were found for CD-RISC and RSES scores. ER89 scores were moderate on average. ER89 scores were higher in SOF career start than mid-career Servicemembers (ηρ2 = 0.07) when accounting for the interaction between SOF career stage and total military service (ηρ2 = 0.07). Discussion: SOF mid-career Servicemembers had similar ER89 resilience scores with more total military service. The SOF career start combat Servicemembers had higher ER89 measured resilience with less total military service only, potentially showing a protective effect of greater service before entering SOF. Conclusion: The ER89 may be a more optimal military resilience metric than the other metrics studied; longitudinal research on SOF combat Servicemember resilience is warranted.

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Whole Blood Storage Temperature Investigation in Austere Environments

Avila CO, Sayson SC, Bennett B 22(3). 19 - 21 (Journal Article)

Introduction: Military medical research has affirmed that early administration of blood products and timely treatment save lives. The US Navy's Expeditionary Resuscitative Surgical System (ERSS) is a Role 2 Light Maneuver team that functions close to the point of injury, administering blood products and providing damage-control resuscitation and surgery. However, information is lacking on the logistical constraints regarding provisions for and the stability of blood products in austere environments. Methods: ERSS conducted a study on the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) area of responsibility. Expired but properly stored units of stored whole blood (SWB) were subjected to five different storage conditions, including combinations of passive and active refrigeration. The SWB was monitored continuously, including for external ambient temperatures. The time for the SWB to rise above the threshold temperature was recorded. Results: The main outcome of the study was the time for the SWB to rise above the recommended storage temperature. Average ambient temperature during the experiment involving conditions 1 through 4 was 25.6°C (78.08°F). Average ambient temperature during the experiment involving condition 5 was 34.8°C (94.64°F). Blood temperature reached the 6°C (42.8°F) threshold within 90 minutes in conditions 1 and 2, which included control and chemically activated ice packs in the thermal insulated chamber (TIC). Condition 2 included prechilling the TIC in a standard refrigerator to 4°C (39.2°F), which kept the units of SWB below the threshold temperature for 490 minutes (approximately 8 hours). Condition 4 entailed prechilling the TIC in a standard freezer to 0.4°C (32.72°F), thus keeping the units of SWB below threshold for 2,160 minutes (i.e., 36 hours). Condition 5 consisted of prechilling the TIC to 3.9°C (39.02°F) in the combat blood refrigerator, which kept the SWB units below the threshold for 780 minutes (i.e., 13 hours), despite a higher average ambient temperature of almost +10°C (50°F). Conclusion: Combining active and passive refrigeration methods will increase the time before SWB rises above the threshold temperature. We demonstrate an adaptable approach of preserving blood product temperature despite refrigeration power failure in austere settings, thereby maintaining mission readiness to increase the survival of potential casualties.

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Development and Evolution of a Comprehensive Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Inpatient Rehabilitation Program: A Nursing Perspective

Modi SS, Goff D, Guess D, Meigs K, Hoskin A, Doncevic S, Perla L, Pejoro S, Sallah C 22(3). 15 - 18 (Journal Article)

The James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa, Florida has developed an innovative approach to the unique rehabilitation needs of active duty Special Operations Forces (SOF) and veterans with chronic conditions related to their military service. Tampa's program, the Post-Deployment Rehabilitation and Evaluation Program (PREP), was established in 2008. The interdisciplinary team includes one nurse practitioner and eight staff registered nurses. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is using Tampa's established and successful PREP as a model to actively expand the program to other Veterans Administration (VA) Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers over the next several years. There are several important nursing and rehabilitation team considerations for the successful development of these mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) inpatient rehabilitation programs.

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Operation Blood Rain Phase 2: Evaluating the Effect of Airdrop on Fresh and Stored Whole Blood

Fuentes RW, Shawler EK, Smith WD, Tong RL, Barnes WJ, Moncada M, Bohlke CW, Mitchell AL 22(3). 9 - 14 (Journal Article)

Background: Transfusion of whole blood (WB) is a lifesaving treatment that prolongs life until definitive surgical intervention can be performed; however, collecting WB is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. Furthermore, it may be difficult to collect sufficient WB at the point of injury to treat critically wounded patients or multiple hemorrhaging casualties. This study is a follow-up to the proof-of-concept study on the effect of airdrop on WB. In addition, this study confirms the statistical significance for the plausibility of using airdrop to deliver WB to combat medics treating casualties in the pre-hospital setting when Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved cold-stored blood products are not available. Methods: Forty-eight units of WB were collected and loaded into a blood cooler that was dropped from a fixed-wing aircraft under a Standard Airdrop Training Bundle (SATB) parachute or 68-in pilot chute. Twenty-four of these units were dropped from a C-145 aircraft, and 24 were dropped from a C-130 aircraft. A control group of 15 units of WB was storedin a blood cooler that was not dropped. Baseline and post-intervention laboratory tests were measured in both airdroppedand control units, including complete blood count; prothrombin time/partial thromboplastin time (PT/PTT); pH, lactate, potassium, bilirubin, glucose, fibrinogen, and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels; and peripheral blood smears. Results: The blood cooler, cooling packs, and all 48 WB units did not sustain any major damage from the airdrop. There was no evidence of hemolysis. Except for the one slightly damaged bag that was not sampled, all airdropped blood met parameters for transfusion per the Joint Trauma System Whole Blood Transfusion Clinical Practice Guideline and the Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies (AABB) Circular of Information for the Use of Human Blood and Blood Components. Conclusions: Airdrop of fresh or stored WB in a blood cooler with a chute is a viable way of delivering blood products to combat medics treating hemorrhaging patients in the pre-hospital setting. This study also demonstrated the portability of this technique for multiple aircraft. The techniques evaluated in this study have the potential for utilizationin other austere settings such as wilderness medicine or humanitarian disasters where an acute need for WB delivery by airdrop is the only option.

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Summer 2022 Journal (Vol 22 Ed 2)

Vol 22 Ed 2
Summer 2022 Journal of Special Operations Medicine
ISSN: 1553-9768

View the Table of Contents

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Management of Severe Crush Injuries in Austere Environments: A Special Operations Perspective

Anderson JL, Cole M, Pannell D. 22(2). 43 - 47. (Journal Article)

Crush injuries present a challenging case for medical providers and require knowledge and skill to manage the subsequent damage to multiple organ systems. In an austere environment, in which resources are limited and evacuation time is extensive, a medic must be prepared to identify trends and predict outcomes based on the mechanism of injury and patient presentation. These injuries occur in a variety of environments from motor vehicle accidents (at home or abroad) to natural disasters and building collapses. Crush injury can lead to compartment syndrome, traumatic rhabdomyolysis, arrythmias, and metabolic acidosis, especially for patients with extended treatment and extrication times. While crush syndrome occurs due to the systemic effects of the injury, the onset can be as early as 1 hour postinjury. With a comprehensive understanding of the pathophysiology, diagnosis, management, and tactical considerations, a prehospital provider can optimize patient outcomes and be prepared with the tools they have on hand for the progression of crush injury into crush syndrome.

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Physiological and Psychological Stressors Affecting Performance, Health, and Recovery in Special Forces Operators: Challenges and Solutions. A Scoping Review

O'Hara R, Sussman LR, Tiede JM, Sheehan R, Keizer B 22(2). 139 - 148 (Journal Article)

Introduction: Special Operations Forces (SOF) Operators (SOs) are exposed to high levels of physiological and cognitive stressors early in their career, starting with the rigors of training, combined with years of recurring deployments. Over time, these stressors may degrade SOs' performance, health, and recovery. Objectives: (1) To evaluate sources identifying and describing physiological and psychological stressors affecting performance, health, and recovery in SOs, and (2) to explore interventions and phenomena of interest, such as the biological mechanisms of overtraining syndrome (OTS). Methods: This review followed the recommendations and methodology of the Joanna Briggs Institute and the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) guidelines. A database search from December 1993 to December 2021 was performed in PubMed, the Cochrane Library, and the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC). Potential articles were identified using search terms from their titles, abstracts, and full texts. Articles effectively addressing the review questions and objectives were eligible. Results: After 19 articles were excluded for not meeting established inclusion criteria, a total of 92 full-text articles were assessed for eligibility. After the final analysis, 72 articles were included. Conclusions: Allostatic imbalance may occur when supra-maximal demands are prolonged and repeated. Without adequate recovery, health and performance may decline, leading to nonfunctional overreaching (NFO) and OTS, resulting in harmful psychological and hormonal disruptions. The recurring demands placed on SOs may result in a chronically high burden of physical and mental stress known as allostatic overload. Future investigation, especially in the purview of longitudinal implementation, health, and recovery monitoring, is necessary for the health and readiness of the SOF population.

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Obstacle Course Events: Hazards and Prevention Measures

Knapik JJ 22(2). 129 - 138 (Journal Article)

This article reviews hazards associated with obstacle course events (OCEs) like the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder, which are becoming increasingly popular, and provides strategies to mitigate these hazards. In seven studies, the overall weighted incidence of participants seeking medical care during OCEs was only 1.4% with ~6% of these requiring higher level medical care at a hospital. Nonetheless, 27% of participants self-reported ≥1 extremity injury. Common OCE medical problems included sprains/strains and dermatological injuries (abrasions/laceration/blisters); the ankle and knee were common injury locations. There are reports microorganism infections during OCEs, associated with ingestion of contaminated water and mud. On military obstacle courses, ~5% were injured, but this activity has the highest injury rate (injuries/hour of training) of all major testing or training activities. Ankle sprain risk can be reduced with proprioceptive training and prophylactic ankle bracing. Knee injury risk can be reduced with exercise-based programs that incorporate various components of proprioceptive training, plyometrics, resistance exercises, stretching, and shuttle/bounding running. Reducing abrasions and lacerations involve wearing low friction clothing, gloves, and prophylactic covering of skin areas prone to abrasions/lacerations with specific protective materials. Reducing blister likelihood involves use of antiperspirants without emollients, specialized sock systems, and covering areas prone to blisters with paper tape. Reducing infections from microorganism can be accomplished by protective covering open wounds, rinsing off mud post-race, and avoiding ingestion of food and drink contaminated with mud. These chiefly evidence-based injury and illness prevention measures should minimize the risks associated with OCEs.

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Management of Pediatric Sepsis: Considerations for the Austere Prehospital Setting

Williams NC 22(2). 120 - 125 (Journal Article)

Septic children are among the most challenging and resource-intensive patients that clinicians see around the world daily. These patients often require a broad range of therapies and assessment techniques, frequently relying on expertise across multiple specialties such as radiology and laboratory services. In developed nations, these resources are readily available or in close proximity, as transport is often logistically feasible to coordinate transfer to definitive care. In developing nations and areas of conflict, this is not the case. Most of the world's population lives in developing nations, resulting in inadequate access to specialized pediatric intensive care resources. As a result, many clinicians globally face the unique challenge of caring for septic children in resource-deprived and austere settings. Areas recovering from natural disasters, remote villages, and conflict zones are examples of austere environments where children have an increased risk of sepsis while having the fewest medical resources available. This creates a unique challenge that prehospital clinicians are specifically tasked with managing, sometimes lasting for multiple days pending the possibility of a transport option. Clinicians in these environments must be aggressive in identifying and treating critically-ill children in resource limited environments, but also nuanced in their care plan due to the limitations of the environment.

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The Future of Prehospital Critical Care

Johnson A, Dodge M, Fisher AD 22(2). 116 - 118 (Journal Article)

As technology improves, the capabilities of prehospital providers increase. Innovations and realizations from military counterparts are being transitioned to civilian emergency care with the same hopes of increasing survivability of patients. Looking to the future, the incorporation of drone aircraft in the critical care field will likely impact the way medicine is practiced. Education is the key to improving outcomes in the prehospital setting.

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Coagulopathy Associated With Trauma: A Rapid Review for Prehospital Providers

Friedman J, Ditzel RM, Fisher AD 22(2). 110 - 115 (Journal Article)

The coagulopathy associated with trauma is a complex and convoluted process that is still poorly understood. However, there are recognized contributors to acute traumatic coagulopathy (ATC) and trauma induced coagulopathy (TIC) that are universal. They are hypothermia, acidosis, and coagulopathy, also known as the lethal triad. Recently, with new understanding of hypocalcemia's role in trauma mortality, the term lethal diamond has been coined to underscore calcium's importance. Prehospital providers often unknowingly exacerbate ATC and TIC with excessive crystalloid administration and poor hypothermia prevention. This article will serve as an overview of the physiologic and iatrogenic drivers of ATC and TIC, and will discuss how they can be prevented, assessed, and treated.

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Management of Acute Lung Injuries and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome in the Tactical and Prolonged Field Care Setting

Bagley GF, Ciochirca C 22(2). 104 - 109 (Journal Article)

The authors examine two acute lung injuries (ALI) that can occur in the tactical setting - positive pressure pulmonary edema and inhalation injury - as well as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), all of which can quickly progress in a prolonged field care (PFC) environment. These conditions present complex problems to emergency department (ED) and intensive care unit (ICU) teams worldwide, requiring intimate knowledge of their distinct disease pathophysiology and advanced critical care equipment. These challenges are compounded in the world of the Special Operations Forces (SOF) medic who often operates as the sole provider in environments with both limited resources and prolonged evacuation times. It is the hope of the authors that by breaking down these complex critical care topics and providing concrete guidance and treatment recommendations that we can ultimately improve the care SOF medics provide overseas in an austere operational environment.

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Mechanical Ventilation: A Review for Special Operations Medical Personnel

Friedman J, Assar SM 22(2). 97 - 102 (Journal Article)

Mechanical ventilation is machine-delivered flow of gases to both oxygenate and ventilate a patient who is unable to maintain physiological gas exchange, and positive-pressure ventilation (PPV) is the primary means of delivering invasive mechanical ventilation. The authors review invasive mechanical ventilation to give the Special Operations Force (SOF) medic a comprehensive conceptual understanding of a core application of critical care medicine.

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Airway Management With Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation

Papalski W, Siedler J, Callaway DW 22(2). 93 - 96 (Journal Article)

Noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation (NPPV) is a form of ventilatory support that does not require the placement of an advanced airway. The authors discuss the use of NPPV on patients who will likely benefit. The use of NPPV has reduced the need for patients to require intubation and/or mechanical ventilation in some cases, as well as benefits.

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Pathophysiology and Treatment of Burns

Payne R, Glassman E, Turman ML, Cancio LC 22(2). 87 - 92 (Journal Article)

Management of burn patients in the prehospital and prolonged field care environments presents complex patient care and logistical challenges. The authors discuss the pathophysiology, diagnostics, longitudinal concerns, and treatment involved in the care of such patients.

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Prehospital Electrolyte Care: A Review of Symptoms, Evaluation, and Management

Painter A, Carius BM 22(2). 80 - 86 (Journal Article)

Ongoing evolution of prehospital medical care continues to advance beyond tactical field care scenarios in the consideration of prolonged field care. This is even more important to consider in theaters with extended evacuation times and limited local medical assets. The critical regulatory functions of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and glucose require medics operating in these environments to have a strong, fundamental knowledge of the principles, manifestations, and initial stabilization measures to aid their patients prior to, or in lieu of evacuation. Continued development and access to point of care testing in increasingly forward deployed settings further enables medics to perform these tasks. Here, we provide a brief review of these vital electrolytes, as well as additional kidney function evaluation considerations, to assist medics in their treatment efforts. Specific concerns for battlefield and atraumatic presentations are addressed.

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