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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.

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Optimizing Warfighter Lethality Through Human Performance Education

Deuster PA, Lunasco T, Messina LA 19(2). 100 - 104 (Journal Article)

Humans are the heart of our warfighting efforts and, as such, human performance must be optimized and sustained to maintain effective and successful SOF Operators over the long haul. How do we do this? Based on the July 2018 signing of a Joint Requirements Oversight Council Memo (JROC) making Total Force Fitness (TFF) a required framework for taking care of our military Servicemembers, we propose three solutions for further optimizing the performance of SOF. The proposed solutions are human performance optimization (HPO)/TFF capability-based blueprinting (CBB), HPO integrator profession (HPO-I), and HPO-centric education and training across the total force. These solutions would potentiate the Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF) concept by improving the targeting of resources and support of Operator and unit operational readiness. These solutions, the knowledge, skills, abilities, and experiences in HPO from a holistic perspective and the opportunity to obtain college credits through the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) College of Allied Health Sciences (CAHS) are described here.

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In Vitro Compatibility of Canine and Human Blood: A Pilot Study

Edwards TH, Wienandt NA, Baxter RL, Mays EL, Gay SD, Cap AP 19(2). 95 - 99 (Journal Article)

Military working dogs (MWDs) are force multipliers that are exposed to the same risks as their human counterparts on the battlefield. Hemostatic resuscitation using blood products is a cornerstone of damage control resuscitation protocols for both humans and dogs. Canine-specific blood products are in short supply in mature theaters due to logistic and regulatory concerns and are almost nonexistent in austere environments, whereas human blood products are readily available at most surgical facilities. The objective of this study was to evaluate the in vitro compatibility of human and canine blood by using standard crossmatching techniques with the canine blood acting as the recipient and the human blood acting as the donor. Blood samples were collected from 20 government-owned canines (GOCs) and 7 healthy human volunteers in addition to washed red blood cells (RBCs) from a commercial blood typing kit. Major and minor crossmatches were conducted as well as a protein denatured crossmatch. All samples in this study showed strong cross-reactivity, with the majority demonstrating profound hemolysis and a minority showing substantial agglutination. Based on the results of this study, transfusion of human blood to an MWD cannot be recommended at this time.

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Survival of Casualties Undergoing Prehospital Supraglottic Airway Placement Versus Cricothyrotomy

Schauer SG, Naylor JF, Chow AL, Maddry J, Cunningham CW, Blackburn MB, Nawn CD, April MD 19(2). 91 - 94 (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 the 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 data set. 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 on 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 for survival were not significantly different between the two groups. Conclusions: We found no difference in short-term outcomes between combat casualties who received an SGA vs those who received a cricothyrotomy. Military prehospital personnel rarely used either advanced airway intervention during the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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A Comparison of Prehospital Versus Emergency Department Intubations in Iraq and Afghanistan

Schauer SG, April MD, Tannenbaum LI, Maddry J, Cunningham CW, Blackburn MB, Arana AA, Shackelford S 19(2). 87 - 90 (Journal Article)

Background: Airway obstruction is the second most common cause of potentially preventable death on the battlefield. We compared survival in the combat setting among patients undergoing prehospital versus emergency department (ED) intubation. Methods: Patients were identified from the Department of Defense Trauma Registry (DODTR) from January 2007 to August 2016. We defined the prehospital cohort as subjects undergoing intubation prior to arrival to a forward surgical team (FST) or combat support hospital (CSH), and the ED cohort as subjects undergoing intubation at an FST or CSH. We compared study variables between these cohorts; survival was our primary outcome. Results: There were 4341 intubations documented in the DODTR during the study period: 1117 (25.7%) patients were intubated prehospital and 3224 (74.3%) were intubated in the ED. Patients intubated prehospital had a lower median age (24 versus 25 years, p < .001), composed a higher proportion of host nation forces (36.1% versus 29.1%, p < .001), had a lower proportion of injuries from explosives (57.6% versus 61.0%, p = .030), and had higher median injury severity scores (20 versus 18, p = .045). A lower proportion of the prehospital cohort survived to hospital discharge (76.4% versus 84.3%, p < .001). The prehospital cohort had lower odds of survival to hospital discharge in both univariable (odds ratio [OR] 0.60, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.51-0.71) and multivariable analyses controlling for confounders (OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.58-0.85). In a subgroup analysis of patients with a head injury, the lower odds of survival persisted in the multivariable analysis (OR 0.49, 95% CI 0.49-0.82). Conclusions: Patients intubated in the prehospital setting had a lower survival than those intubated in the ED. This finding persisted after controlling for measurable confounders.

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Sulfur Mustard Exposure: Review of Acute, Subacute, and Long-Term Effects and Their Management

Wolfe GA, Petteys SM, Phelps JF, Wasmund JB, Plackett TP 19(2). 81 - 86 (Journal Article)

Sulfur mustard has been used in conflicts for more than a century. Despite international recognized bans on the use of chemical weapons, there continue to be reports of their use. The authors provide a contemporary overview of sulfur mustard injury and its management in the acute, subacute, and chronic periods.

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Impact of Continuous Ketamine Infusion Versus Alternative Regimens on Mortality Among Burn Intensive Care Unit Patients: Implications for Prolonged Field Care

Schauer SG, April MD, Aden JK, Rowan M, Chung KK 19(2). 77 - 80 (Journal Article)

Background: The military is rapidly moving into a battlespace in which prolonged holding times in the field are probable. Ketamine provides hemodynamic support and has analgesic properties, but the safety of prolonged infusions is unclear. We compare in-hospital mortality between intubated burn intensive care unit (ICU) patients receiving prolonged ketamine infusion lasting ≥7 days or until death versus controls. Methods: We conducted a before/after cohort study of patients undergoing admission to a burn ICU with intubation within the first 24 hours as part of treatment for thermal burns. In January 2012, this ICU implemented a novel continuous ketamine infusions protocol. We performed a preintervention and postintervention cohort analysis. Results: We identified 2394 patients meeting our inclusion criteria-475 in the ketamine group and 1919 in the control group. Regarding burn total body surface area (TBSA) involvement, there were 1533 in the <10% group, 586 in the 11-30% group, and 281 in the>31% group. The median number of ventilator-free days within the first 30 days did not vary significantly between the ketamine group and the control group: 8.5 days (interquartile range [IQR] 1-16 days) versus 8 days (IQR 3-13 days, p = .442). Subjects receiving ketamine had higher mortality rates: 59.4% (n = 117) versus 40.6% (n = 80, p < .001), with an odds ratio for in-hospital mortality of 7.51 (95% CI 5.53-10.20, p < .001). When controlling for TBSA category, ventilator days and vasopressor administration, there was no association between ketamine and in-hospital mortality (0.66, 0.41-1.05, p = .08). Conclusions: When controlling for confounders, we found no difference in in-hospital mortality between the prolonged ketamine infusion recipients versus non-recipients.

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Development of a Field-Expedient Vascular Trauma Simulator

Martin CJ, Plackett TP, Rush RM 19(2). 73 - 76 (Journal Article)

The past few years have noted significant declines in combat casualty exposure over the course of a deployment. As a result, overall confidence and comfort in performing potentially life-saving therapies may wane during a deployment. Development of training simulators provides a method for bridging this gap. Herein, a field-expedient vascular trauma trainer for noncompressible torso hemorrhage is described. A low-fidelity simulator was created using a Penrose drain, intravenous tubing, suture, and a cardboard box. A higher-fidelity simulator was created using an aortobifemoral bypass graft, double-lumen endotracheal tube, suture, and an upper torso mannequin. The two trainers were successfully used to train for peripheral shunt placement and definitive vascular repair. The trainer makes use of supplies readily found at most Role 2 and 3 facilities and that are obtainable for Role 1 facilities providing damage control surgery. It provides a just-in-time way to develop and sustain confidence in the damage control principles applicable to vascular injuries.

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The Use of the Abdominal Aortic and Junctional Tourniquet Versus Combat Gauze in a Porcine Hemicorporectomy Model

Schwartz RB, Shiver SA, Reynolds BZ, Lowry J, Holsten SB, Akers TW, Lyon M 19(2). 69 - 72 (Journal Article)

Background: Junctional hemorrhage is a potentially preventable cause of death. The Abdominal Aortic and Junctional Tourniquet (AAJT) compresses major vascular structures and arrests blood flow in exsanguinating hemorrhage. In a human model, the AAJT was effective in stopping blood flow in the femoral arteries via compression of the distal aorta. This study compares the ability of AAJT and Combat Gauze (CG) to stop hemorrhagic bleeding from a hemicorporectomy in a swine model. Method: Six anesthetized swine were used. Carotid arterial catheters were placed for continuous mean arterial pressure (MAP) readings. A hemicorporectomy was accomplished with a blade lever device by cutting the animal through both femoral heads transecting the proximal iliac arteries and veins. Hemorrhage control was attempted with the AAJT and regular Kerlix gauze or CG packing and direct pressure followed by Kerlix gauze placed over the CG. The primary outcome measure was survival at 60 minutes. Results: The 60-minute survival was 100% for the AAJT and 0% for the CG group. During the 60-minute monitoring period, only one CG animal achieved hemostasis. For the AAJT group, the mean time to hemostasis was 30 seconds. Initial MAP was higher in the AAJT group (mean, 87mmHg) than the CG group (mean, 70mmHg). The mean 60-minute MAP was 73mmHg for the AAJT group. Mean blood loss at 5 minutes and mean total blood loss were greater in the CG group than in the AAJT group. Conclusion: AAJT is superior to CG in controlling hemorrhage in a junctional wound in a swine model.

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Resilience and Suicide in Special Operations Forces: State of the Science via Integrative Review

Rocklein Kemplin K, Paun O, Godbee DC, Brandon JW 19(2). 57 - 66 (Journal Article)

Background: Due to alarming rates of suicide in Special Operations Forces (SOF) and associated effects of traumatic stress in military populations writ large, resilience initiatives thought to influence Servicemembers' mitigation of traumatic stress and thus lower suicide risks have been implemented throughout the services. Since combat operations commenced in multiple theaters of war nearly two decades ago, resilience in conventional military populations became a topic of keen interest throughout departments of defense worldwide as well. Despite researchers' consistent assertions that SOF are highly resilient and at low risk for suicide, granular analysis of pertinent research and escalating suicide in SOF reveals no empirical basis for those beliefs. Methods: We report findings from an integrative review of resilience research in SOF and larger military populations to contextualize and augment understanding of the phenomenon. Results: Throughout the literature, conceptual and operational definitions of resilience varied based on country, context, investigators, and military populations studied. We identified critical gaps in resilience knowledge in the military, specifically: Resilience has not been studied in SOF; resilience is not concretely established to reduce suicide risk or proven to improve mental health outcomes; resilience differs when applied as a psychological construct; resilience research is based on specific assumptions of what composes resilience, depending on methods of measurement; resilience studies in this population lack rigor; research methodologies and conflicting interests invite potential bias. Conclusion: This integrative review highlights emergent issues and repetitive themes throughout military resilience research: resilience program inefficacy, potential investigator bias, perpetuated assumptions, and failure to capture and appropriately analyze germane data. Because of overall inconsistency in military resilience research, studies have limited external validity, and cannot be applied beyond sampled populations. Resilience cannot be responsibly offered as a solution to mitigating posttraumatic stress disorder nor suicide without detailed study of both in SOF.

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Best Tourniquet Holding and Strap Pulling Technique

Wall PL, Buising CM, Donovan S, McCarthy C, Smith K, Renner CH 19(2). 48 - 56 (Journal Article)

Background: Appropriate strap pressure before tightening-system use is an important aspect of nonelastic, limb tourniquet application. Methods: Using different two-handed techniques, the strap of the Generation 7 Combat Application Tourniquet (C-A-T7), Tactical Ratcheting Medical Tourniquet (Tac RMT), Tactical Mechanical Tourniquet (TMT), Parabelt, and Generation 3 SOF® Tactical Tourniquet-Wide (SOFTTW) was secured mid-thigh by 20 appliers blinded to pressure data and around a thigh-sized ballistic gel cylinder by gravity and 23.06kg. Results: Pulling only outward (90° to strap entering buckle) achieved the lowest secured pressures on thighs and gel. For appliers, the best holding location was above the buckle, and the best strap-pulling direction was tangential to the thigh or gel (0° to strap entering buckle). Preceding tangential pulling with outward pulling resulted in higher secured pressures on the gel but did not aid appliers. Appliers generally did not reach secured pressures achievable for their strength. Of 80 thigh applications per tourniquet, 77 C-A-T7, 41 Tac RMT, 35 TMT, 16 Parabelt, and 10 SOFTTW applications had secured pressures greater than 100mmHg. Conclusions: The default for best tourniquet strap-application technique is to hold above the buckle and pull the strap tangential to the limb at the buckle. Additionally, neither strength nor experience guarantees desirable strap pressures in the absence of pressure knowledge.

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Ease of Use of Emergency Tourniquets on Simulated Limbs of Infants: Deliberate Practice

Kragh JF, Wright-Aldossari B, Aden JK, Dubick MA 19(2). 41 - 47 (Journal Article)

Background: To investigate questions about application of emergency tourniquets in very young children, we investigated practices of Combat Application Tourniquet (C-A-T) use on a simulated infant-sized limb to develop ways to improve readiness for caregiving. Methods: This study was conducted as investigations of C-A-Ts used by two individuals in deliberate practice. The practice setup simulating a limb of infants aged 3−5 months included a handrail (circumference, 5.25 in.). This setup needed a specific modification to the instructions for use to adhere the band between the clips. Each user performed 100 practices. Results: With accrual of experience, application time was shorter for each user, on average in a power law of practice, and more ease was associated when less time was taken to apply the tourniquet. The ease of use was associated with accrued experience through deliberate practice of a tourniquet user while under coached learning. A check of tourniquet fit on a 4.25-in. limb also entailed the modification used in the 5.25-in. limb. However, an additional modification of wrapping the band in a figure-8 pattern around the rod was needed because the rod and clip could not meet. The fit on a 3.25-in. limb was impracticable for a workaround. Tourniquet use was harder for smaller limbs (i.e., 4.25 in. and 3.25 in.). A map of tourniquet fit was sketched of which sized limbs were too big, too small, within the fit zone, or at its borders. Conclusion: C-A-Ts mechanically fit the simulated limbs of infants aged 3−5 months, and C-A-T use was practicably easy enough to allow experienced users to fit tourniquets to limbs well using a specific modification of the routine technique. The findings and knowledge generated in this study are available to inform researches and developments in best preparation practices for instructing first aid.

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Use of Atomized Intranasal Tranexamic Acid as an Adjunctive Therapy in Difficult-to-Treat Epistaxis

Sarkar D, Martinez J 19(2). 23 - 28 (Case Reports)

There is a growing body of literature on the safe, effective use of tranexamic acid (TXA) for hemostasis in a variety of clinical settings. We present a case series of three patients with difficult-to-treat epistaxis where standard treatment methods were not effective. Using atomized intranasal TXA (ATXA) as part of a stepwise treatment approach, we were able to achieve hemostasis and manage all three cases independently, and we did so without major complications in our emergency department (ED). Given recent literature showing the underuse of TXA in combat casualties, ATXA, if formulated and delivered properly, may be of benefit for epistaxis and other significant hemorrhage cases. Further work must be done to elucidate the mechanism of action, specific dose, delivery method, use indications, and safety profile of ATXA.

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Differential Diagnosis of an Unusual Snakebite Presentation in Benin: Dry Bite or Envenomation?

Benjamin JM, Chippaux J, Jackson K, Ashe S, Tamou-Sambo B, Massougbodji A, Akpakpa OC, Abo BN 19(2). 18 - 22 (Case Reports)

A 20-year-old man presented to a rural hospital in Bembéréké, northern Benin, after a witnessed bite from a small, dark snake to his left foot that occurred 3 hours earlier. The description of the snake was consistent with several neurotoxic elapids known to inhabit the area in addition to various species from at least 10 different genera of non-front-fanged colubroid (NFFC) venomous snakes. The presentation was consistent with the early signs of a neurotoxic snakebite as well as a sympathetic nervous system stress response. Diagnosis was further complicated by the presence of a makeshift tourniquet, which either could have been the cause of local signs and symptoms or a mechanical barrier delaying venom distribution and systemic effects until removal. Systemic envenomation did not develop after the removal of the constricting band, but significant local paresthesias persisted for longer than 24 hours and resolved after the administration of a placebo injection of normal saline in place of antivenom therapy. This was an unusual case of snakebite with persistent neuropathy despite an apparent lack of envenomation and a number of snakebite- specific variables that complicated the initial assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of the patient. This case presentation provides clinicians with an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the differential diagnosis and approach to a patient bitten by an unidentified snake, and it illustrates the importance of symptom progression as a pathognomonic sign during the early stages of a truly serious snake envenomation. Treatment should be based on clinical presentation and evolution of symptoms rather than on snake identification alone.

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Mottled, Blanching Skin Changes After Aggressive Diving

Lau AM, Johnston MJ, Rivard R 19(2). 14 - 17 (Case Reports)

The initial livedo skin changes of cutis marmorata, also known as cutaneous decompression sickness (DCS), are transient in nature. Accordingly, early images of violaceous skin changes with variegated, marbled, or mottled appearance are rare, whereas later images of deep, erythematous, or violaceous skin changes are readily available. This case presents the opportunity to view the early skin changes characteristic of cutaneous DCS, which would likely manifest at Level I care in the setting of a diving injury during Special Operations missions in austere environments. The unique diving context also allows an overview of DCS in addition to a review of skin eruptions associated with various marine life. As diving is frequently used by Naval Special Warfare, topics presented in this case have significant relevance to Special Operations.

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Winter 2018 Journal (Vol 18 Ed 4)

Vol 18 Ed 4
Winter 2018 Journal of Special Operations Medicine
ISSN: 1553-9768

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Adapting to Death: Clarifying the Roles of Special Operations Combat Medics in Prolonged Field Care

Jeschke EA 18(4). 153 - 156 (Journal Article)

I suggest that Special Operations Forces (SOF) medicine should explicitly acknowledge the Special Operations combat medic's role in attending death. This acknowledgment will allow researchers to evaluate and delimit the medic's needs in relationship to an expanded set of roles that move beyond life-saving care. This article comprises four sections. First, I provide background to my argument by exploring some assumptions of modern medicine and objections to exploring battlefield death care. Second, I describe how I see the medic's role expanding with the introduction of prolonged field care. Third, I address the implications of the medic's expanded role in relationship to role and function stress and strain. Fourth, I address the moral complexity related to withdrawing or withholding care. I conclude by briefly highlighting some of the implications for future research. In explicitly engaging death as a medical reality for which the medic ought to be prepared, SOF medicine could set the foundational development for seeing death as a valuable gift to be explored, not a failure to be avoided or burden to be overcome.

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