Implementation and Execution of Military Forward Resuscitation Programs

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Abstract

Through necessity, military medicine has been the driver of medical innovation throughout history. The battlefield presents challenges, such as the requirement to provide care while under threat, resource limitation, and prolonged evacuation times, which must be overcome to improve casualty survival. Focus must also be placed on identifying the causes, and timing, of death within the battlefield. By doing so, military medical doctrine can be shaped, appropriate goals set, new concepts adopted, and relevant technologies investigated and implemented. The majority of battlefield casualties still die in the prehospital environment, before reaching a medical treatment facility, and hemorrhage remains the leading cause of potentially survivable death. Many countries have adopted policies that push damage control resuscitation forward into the prehospital setting, while understanding the need for timely medical evacuation. Although these policies vary according to country, the majority share many common principles. These include the need for early catastrophic hemorrhage control at point-of-wounding, judicious use of fluid resuscitation, use of blood products as far forward as possible, and early evacuation to a surgical facility. Some countries place medical providers with the ability, and resources, for advanced resuscitation with the forward fighting units (perhaps at company level), whereas others have established en route resuscitation capabilities. If we are to continue to improve battlefield casualty survival, we must continue to work together and learn from each other. We must also carry on working alongside our civilian colleagues so that the benefits of translational experience are not lost. This review describes several countries current military approaches to prehospital trauma care. These approaches, refined through a decade of experience, merit consideration for integration into civilian prehospital care practice.

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