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Introduction to the NATO Special Operations Combat Medic Research Ongoing Series

Sardianos D, Boland J 19(2). 118 - 121 (Journal Article)

Technology has become a necessity in modern society, providing capabilities that have never been experienced before. The integration of such capabilities arms today's Special Operations medic with abilities that can make a vast difference to the survivability rate of an ill or injured patient. Taking advantage of new technological capabilities such as advanced monitoring and diagnostics and portable ultrasound also plays a key role; together with the evolution in modern communication.

I Can't Breathe-A SIPe of Water

Urbaniak MK, Hampton K 18(1). 145 (Journal Article)

Exertional Heat Stroke: Pathophysiology, Epidemiology, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

Knapik JJ, Epstein Y 19(2). 108 - 116 (Journal Article)

Temperature increases due to climate changes and operations expected to be conducted in hot environments make heat-related injuries a major medical concern for the military. The most serious of heat-related injuries is exertional heat stroke (EHS). EHS generally occurs when health individual perform physical activity in hot environments and the balance between body heat production and heat dissipation is upset resulting in excessive body heat storage. Blood flow to the skin is increased to assist in dissipating heat while gut blood flow is considerably reduced, and this increases the permeability of the gastrointestinal mucosa. Toxic materials from gut bacteria leak through the gastrointestinal mucosa into the central circulation triggering an inflammatory response, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), multiorgan failure, and vascular collapse. In addition, high heat directly damages cellular proteins resulting in cellular death. In the United States military, the overall incidence of clinically diagnosed heat stroke from 1998 to 2017 was (mean ± standard deviation) 2.7 ± 0.5 cases/10,000 Soldier-years and outpatient rates rose over this period. The cornerstone of EHS diagnosis is recognition of central nervous dysfunction (ataxia, loss of balance, convulsions, irrational behavior, unusual behavior, inappropriate comments, collapse, and loss of consciousness) and a body core temperature (obtained with a rectal thermometer) usually >40.5°C (105°F). The gold standard treatment is whole body cold water immersion. In the field where water immersion is not available it may be necessary to use ice packs or very cold, wet towels placed over as much of the body as possible before transportation of the victim to higher levels of medical care. The key to prevention of EHS and other heat-related injuries is proper heat acclimation, understanding work/rest cycles, proper hydration during activity, and assuring that physical activity is matched to the Soldiers' fitness levels. Also, certain dietary supplements (DSs) may have effects on energy expenditure, gastrointestinal function, and thermoregulation that should be considered and understood. In many cases over-motivation is a major risk factor. Commanders and trainers should be alert to any change in the Soldier's behavior. Proper attention to these factors should considerably reduce the incidence of EHS.

Fever of Unknown Origin in US Soldier: Telemedical Consultation Limitations in a Deployment to West Africa

Auchincloss PJ, Nam JJ, Blyth D, Childs G, Kraft K, Robben PM, Pamplin JC 19(2). 123 - 126 (Journal Article)

Objective: Review the application of telemedicine support for managing a patient with possible sepsis, suspected malaria, and unusual musculoskeletal symptoms. Clinical Context: Regionally Aligned Forces (RAF) supporting US Army Africa/Southern European Task Force (USARAF/ SETAF) in the Africa Command area of responsibility. Care provided by a small Role I facility on the compound. Organic Medical Expertise: Five 68W combat medics (one is the patient); one SOCM trained 68W combat medic. No US provider present in country. Closest Medical Support: Organic battalion physician assistant (PA) located in the USA; USARAF PA located in Italy; French Role II located in bordering West African country; medical consultation sought via telephone, WhatsApp® (communication with French physician) or over unclassified, encrypted e-mail. Earliest Evacuation: Estimated at 12 to 24 hours with appropriate country clearances and approval to fly from three countries including French forces support approval.

Update: Five Years of Prolonged Field Care in Special Operations Medicine

Riesberg JC, Loos PE 19(2). 122 (Journal Article)

This brief quarterly update from the SOMA Prolonged Field Care (PFC) Working Group focuses on the first of ten sequential reviews of the PFC Core Capabilities, starting with advanced airway management.

Improvised Inguinal Junctional Tourniquets: Recommendations From the Special Operations Combat Medical Skills Sustainment Course

Kerr W, Hubbard B, Anderson B, Montgomery HR, Glassberg E, King DR, Hardin RD, Knight RM, Cunningham CW 19(2). 128 - 133 (Journal Article)

Effectively and rapidly controlling significant junctional hemorrhage is an important effort of Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) and can potentially contribute to greater survival on the battlefield. Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved labeling of four devices for use as junctional tourniquets, many Special Operations Forces (SOF) medics do not carry commercially marketed junctional tourniquets. As part of ongoing educational improvement during Special Operations Combat Medical Skills Sustainment Courses (SOCMSSC), the authors surveyed medics to determine why they do not carry commercial tourniquets and present principles and methods of improvised junctional tourniquet (IJT) application. The authors describe the construction and application of IJTs, including the use of available pressure delivery devices and emphasizing that successful application requires sufficient and repetitive training.

Without Jumping to Conclusions

Hampton K 19(2). 127 (Journal Article)

Delayed Diagnosis in Army Ranger Postdeployment Primaquine-Induced Methemoglobinemia

Essendrop R, Friedline N, Cruz J 19(3). 14 - 16 (Case Reports)

Presumptive antirelapse therapy (PART) with primaquine for Plasmodium vivax malaria postdeployment is an important component of the US military Force Health Protection plan. While primaquine is well tolerated in the majority of cases, we present a unique case of an active duty Army Ranger without glucose-6-phosphatase dehydrogenase or cytochrome b5 reductase (b5R) deficiencies who developed symptomatic methemoglobinemia while taking PART following a deployment to Afghanistan.

Case Presentation: Creation and Utilization of a Novel Field Improvised Autologous Transfusion System in a Combat Casualty

Scarborough T, Turconi M, Callaway DW 19(2). 134 - 137 (Journal Article)

This case report describes the technical aspects in first use of a novel field improvised autologous transfusion (FIAT) system. It highlights a potential solution for specific trauma patients during advanced resuscitative care (ARC) and prolonged field care (PFC) scenarios where other blood products are not available.

Risk Associated With Autologous Fresh Whole Blood Training

Donham B, Barbee GA, Deaton TG, Kerr W, Wier RP, Fisher AD 19(3). 24 - 25 (Journal Article)

Fresh whole blood (FWB) is increasingly being recognized as the ideal resuscitative fluid for hemorrhagic shock. Because of this, military units are working to establish the capability to give FWB from a walking blood bank donor in environments that are unsupported by conventional blood bank services. Therefore, many military units are performing autologous blood transfusion training. In this training, a volunteer has a unit of blood collected and then transfused back into the same donor. The authors report their experience performing an estimated 3408 autologous transfusions in training and report no instances of hemolytic transfusion reactions or other major complications. With appropriate control measures in place, autologous FWB training is low-risk training.

I See Red! Red Light Illumination in Helicopter Air Ambulance Services

Schober P, Schwarte LA 19(3). 22 - 23 (Journal Article)

Helicopter air ambulance services (HAA) increasingly operate during darkness, and the cockpit crew prefers a dimmed light to be used in the cabin. Our HAA team is currently researching the use of dimmed red light. We encountered a downside to the use of red light-some texts and symbols became virtually invisible.

Management of Hemorrhage From Craniomaxillofacial Injuries and Penetrating Neck Injury in Tactical Combat Casualty Care: iTClamp Mechanical Wound Closure Device TCCC Guidelines Proposed Change 19-04 06 June 2019

Onifer DJ, McKee JL, Faudree LK, Bennett BL, Miles EA, Jacobsen T, Morey JK, Butler FK 19(3). 31 - 44 (Journal Article)

The 2012 study Death on the battlefield (2001-2011) by Eastridge et al.1 demonstrated that 7.5% of the prehospital deaths caused by potentially survivable injuries were due to external hemorrhage from the cervical region. The increasing use of Tactical Combat-Casualty Care (TCCC) and other medical interventions have dramatically reduced the overall rate of combat-related mortality in US forces; however, uncontrolled hemorrhage remains the number one cause of potentially survivable combat trauma. Additionally, the use of personal protective equipment and adaptations in the weapons used against US forces has caused changes in the wound distribution patterns seen in combat trauma. There has been a significant proportional increase in head and neck wounds, which may result in difficult to control hemorrhage. More than 50% of combat wounded personnel will receive a head or neck wound. The iTClamp (Innovative Trauma Care Inc., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) is the first and only hemorrhage control device that uses the hydrostatic pressure of a hematoma to tamponade bleeding from an injured vessel within a wound. The iTClamp is US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for use on multiple sites and works in all compressible areas, including on large and irregular lacerations. The iTClamp's unique design makes it ideal for controlling external hemorrhage in the head and neck region. The iTClamp has been demonstrated effective in over 245 field applications. The device is small and lightweight, easy to apply, can be used by any level of first responder with minimal training, and facilitates excellent skills retention. The iTClamp reapproximates wound edges with four pairs of opposing needles. This mechanism of action has demonstrated safe application for both the patient and the provider, causes minimal pain, and does not result in tissue necrosis, even if the device is left in place for extended periods. The Committee on TCCC recommends the use of the iTClamp as a primary treatment modality, along with a CoTCCC-recommended hemostatic dressing and direct manual pressure (DMP), for hemorrhage control in craniomaxillofacial injuries and penetrating neck injuries with external hemorrhage.

The NATO Special Operations Surgical Team Development Course A Program Overview

Parker PJ 19(3). 26 - 29 (Journal Article)

The Special Operations Surgical Team Development Course (SOSTDC) is a 5-day course held two or three times a year at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) training facility within the Special Operations Medical Branch (SOMB) of the Allied Centre for Medical Education (ACME). Its aim is to teach, train, develop, and encourage NATO partner nations to provide robust, hardened, and clinically able surgical resuscitation teams that are capable of providing close support to Special Operations Forces (SOF).

Airway Management for Army Reserve Combat Medics: An Interdisciplinary Workshop

Miller BM, Kinder C, Smith-Steinert R 19(3). 64 - 70 (Journal Article)

Background: An Army Reserve Combat Medic's training is focused on knowledge attainment, skill development, and building experience and training to prepare them to perform in austere conditions with limited resources like on the battlefield. Unfortunately, the exposure to skills they may be responsible for performing is limited. Research shows that greater than 90% of battlefield deaths occur in the prehospital setting, 24% of which are potentially survivable. Literature demonstrates that 91% of these deaths are related to hemorrhage; the remaining are related to other causes, including airway compromise. The skill and decision-making of this population are prime targets to optimize outcomes in the battlefield setting. Methods: Army Reserve combat medics were selected to voluntarily participate in an educational intervention provided by anesthesia providers focusing on airway management. Participants completed a preintervention assessment to evaluate baseline knowledge levels as well as comfort with airway skills. Medics then participated in a simulated difficult airway scenario. Next, airway management was reviewed, and navigation of the difficult airway algorithm was discussed. The presentation was followed by simulations at four hands-on stations, which focused on fundamental airway concepts such as bag-mask ventilation and placement of oral airways, tracheal intubation, placement of supraglottic airways, and cricothyrotomy. Pre/post knowledge assessments and performance evaluation tools were used to measure the effectiveness of the intervention. Results: Statistically significant results were found in self-reported confidence levels with airway skills (z = -2.803, p = .005), algorithm progression (z = -2.807, p = .005), and predicting difficulty with airway interventions based on the patient's features (z = -2.809, p = .005). Establishment of ventilation was completed faster after the intervention. More coherent and effective airway management was noted, new knowledge was gained, and implications from psychological research applied. Conclusion: Supplementing the training of Army Reserve Combat Medics with the utilization of anesthesia providers is an effective platform. This exercise imparted confidence in this population of military providers. This is critical for decision-making capabilities, performance, and the prevention of potentially survivable mortality on the battlefield.

Review: Getting Tourniquets Right = Getting Tourniquets Tight

Wall PL, Buising CM, Sahr SM 19(3). 52 - 63 (Journal Article)

Tourniquet application to stop limb bleeding is conceptually simple, but optimal application technique matters, generally requires training, and is more likely with objective measures of correct application technique. Evidence of problems with application techniques, knowledge, and training can be ascertained from January 2007 to August 2018 PubMed peer-reviewed papers and in Stop The Bleed-related videos. Available data indicates optimal technique when not under fire involves application directly on skin. For nonelastic tourniquets, optimal application technique includes pulling the strap tangential to the limb at the redirect buckle (parallel to the limb-encircling strap entering the redirect buckle). Before engaging the mechanical advantage tightening system, the secured strap should exert at least 150mmHg inward, and skin indentation should be visible. For Combat Application Tourniquets, optimal technique includes the slot in the windlass rod parallel to the stabilization plate during the single 180° turn that should be sufficient for achieving arterial occlusion, which involves visible skin indentation and pressures of 250mmHg to 428mmHg on normotensive adult thighs. Appropriate pressures on manikins and isolated-limb simulations depend on how the under-tourniquet pressure response of each compares to the under-tourniquet pressure response of human limbs for matching tourniquet-force applications. Lack of such data is one of several concerns with manikin and isolated-limb simulation use. Regardless of model or human limb use, pictures and videos purporting to show proper tourniquet application techniques should show optimal tourniquet application techniques and properly applied, arterially occlusive limb tourniquets. Ideally, objective measures of correct tourniquet application technique would be included.

Deliberate Practice in Combat Application Tourniquet Placement by Loop Passage

Kragh JF, Aden JK, Dubick MA 19(3). 45 - 50 (Journal Article)

Background: We sought opportunities to develop learning practices of individual first aid providers. In this study, we simulated deliberate practice in placing limb tourniquets. Methods: This study comprised tourniquet uses by two experienced persons. Their practice sessions focused on developing a motor skill with periodic coaching. The Combat Application Tourniquet is 1.5-inches wide and was used in a technique of loop passage around the end of the limb to place it 2-3 inches above the wound. The simulated limb was a Z-Medica Hemorrhage Control Trainer. Both users applied the tourniquet six times over 5 days to accrue 30 uses individually (N = 60 tourniquet applications for the study). Results: When represented as summary parameters, differences were small. For example, average ease of use was the same for both users, but such parameters only took a snapshot of performance, yielding a general assessment. However, for a learning curve by use number, a surrogate of experience accrual, application time revealed spiral learning. The amount that users compressed a limb averaged −15% compared with its unsqueezed state. Placement accuracy was classified relative to gap widths between the tourniquet and the wound, and of 60 performances, 55 were satisfactory and five were unsatisfactory (i.e., placement was <2 inches from the wound). When a tourniquet only overlaid the 2-inch edge of the placement zone (i.e., tourniquet was 2-3.5 inches away from the wound), no error was made, but errors were made in crossing that 2-inch edge. These gauging errors led us to create a template for learners to see and to demonstrate what the meaning of 2-3 inches is. Conclusion: Each metric had value in assessing first aid, but turning attention to gauging wound-tourniquet gaps revealed placement errors. Analysis of such errors uncovered what 2-3 inches meant in operation. Spiral learning may inform the development of best readiness practices such as coaching deliberate-practice sessions.

Operational Advantages of Enteral Resuscitation Following Burn Injury in Resource-Poor Environments: Palatability of Commercially Available Solutions

Burmeister DM, Little JS, Gomez BI, Gurney J, Chao T, Cancio LC, Kramer GC, Dubick MA 19(3). 76 - 81 (Journal Article)

Background: In recent combat operations, 5% to 15% of casualties sustained thermal injuries, which require resource-intensive therapies. During prolonged field care or when caring for patients in a multidomain battlefield, delayed transport will complicate the challenges that already exist in the burn population. A lack of resources and/or vascular access in the future operating environment may benefit from alternative resuscitation strategies. The objectives of the current report are 1) to briefly review actual and potential advantages/caveats of resuscitation with enteral fluids and 2) to present new data on palatability of oral rehydration solutions. Methods: A review of the literature and published guidelines are reported. In addition, enlisted US military active duty Servicemembers (N = 40) were asked to taste/rank five different oral rehydration solutions on several parameters. Results and Conclusions: There are several operational advantages of using enteral fluids including ease of administration, no specialized equipment needed, and the use of lightweight sachets that are easily reconstituted/ administered. Limited clinical data along with slightly more extensive preclinical studies have prompted published guidelines for austere conditions to indicate consideration of enteral resuscitation for burns. Gatorade® and Drip-Drop® were the overall preferred rehydration solutions based on palatability, with the latter potentially more appropriate for resuscitation. Taken together, enteral resuscitation may confer several advantages over intravenous fluids for burn resuscitation under resource-poor scenarios. Future research needs to identify what solutions and volumes are optimal for use in thermally injured casualties.

A Comparison of the Laryngeal Handshake Method Versus the Traditional Index Finger Palpation Method in Identifying the Cricothyroid Membrane, When Performed by Combat Medic Trainees

Moore A, Aden JK, Curtis R, Umar M 19(3). 71 - 75 (Journal Article)

Background: The laryngeal handshake method (LHM) may be a reliable standardized method to quickly and accurately identify the cricothyroid membrane (CTM) when performing an emergency surgical airway (ESA). However, there is currently minimal available literature evaluating the method. Furthermore, no previous CTM localization studies have focused on success rates of military prehospital providers. This study was conducted with the goal of answering the question: Which method is superior, the LHM or the traditional method (TM), for identifying anatomical landmarks in a timely manner when performed by US Army combat medic trainees? Methods: This prospective randomized crossover study was conducted at Ft Sam Houston, TX, in September 2018. Two Army medic trainees with similar body habitus volunteered as subjects, and the upper and lower borders and midline of their CTMs were identified by ultrasound (US). The participants were also recruited from the medic trainee population. After receiving initial training on the LHM and refresher training on the TM, participants were asked to localize the CTMs of each subject with one method per subject. Success was defined as a marking within the borders and 5mm of midline within 2 minutes. Results: Thirty-two combat medic trainees participated; 78% (n = 25) successfully localized the CTM using the TM versus 41% (n = 13) using the LHM (p = .002). Conclusion: Findings of this study support that at present the TM is a superior method for successful localization of the CTM when performed by Army combat medic trainees.

Survival of Casualties Undergoing Prehospital Supraglottic Airway Placement Versus Cricothyrotomy

Schauer SG, Naylor JF, Chow AL, Maddry JK, Cunningham CW, Blackburn MB, Nawn CD, April MD 19(3). 86 - 89 (Journal Article)

Background: Airway compromise is the second leading cause of preventable death on the battlefield. Unlike a cricothyrotomy, supraglottic airway (SGA) placement does not require an incision and is less technically challenging. We compare survival of causalities undergoing cricothyrotomy versus SGA placement. Methods: We used a series of emergency department (ED) procedure codes to search within the Department of Defense Trauma Registry (DoDTR) from January 2007 to August 2016. This is a subanalysis of that dataset. Results: During the study period, 194 casualties had a documented cricothyrotomy and 22 had a documented SGA as the sole airway intervention. The two groups had similar proportions of explosive injuries (57.7% versus 63.6%, p = .328), similar composite injury severity scores (25 versus 27.5, p = .168), and similar AIS for the head, face, extremities, and external body regions. The cricothyrotomy group had lower AIS for the thorax (0 versus 3, p = .019) a trend toward lower AIS for the abdomen (0 versus 0, p = .077), more serious injuries to the head (67.5% versus 45.5%, p = .039), and similar rates of serious injuries to the face (4.6% versus 4.6%, p = .984). Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) scores were similar upon arrival to the ED (3 versus 3, p = .467) as were the proportion of patients surviving to discharge (45.4% versus 40.9%, p = .691). On repeated multivariable analyses, the odds ratios (ORs) for survival were not significantly different between the two groups. Conclusion: We found no difference in short-term outcomes between combat casualties who received an SGA vs cricothyrotomy. Military prehospital personnel rarely used either advanced airway intervention during the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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