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New battlefield medical techniques saving lives

28th June 2017 - 7:00 by Scott Gourley in California

New battlefield medical techniques saving lives

As battlefield medicine continues to progress, new medical techniques being developed are now saving patients previously thought unlikely to survive.

One such procedure, called REBOA (Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta), has now been used by US personnel for the first time in the field as part of ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria. The procedure is used to treat victims of significant trauma and in cases of major bleeding from chest, abdomen or pelvic injuries.

The REBOA technique involves stopping all blood flow temporarily while treating the most traumatic injuries. Four patients were treated and all survived.

The commanding officer of the unit, Lt Col Benjamin Mitchell, has since been awarded the 2017 Heroes of Military Medicine Award by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine.

Mitchell is the commander of an Air Force Special Operations Surgical Team operating out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Special Operations Surgical Teams, or SOSTs, are mobile surgical specialists with advanced medical and tactics training who can deploy to austere or hostile areas to provide surgical support.

Operating out of a small concrete house with equipment from their rucksacks, Mitchell and his team were the first Defense Department personnel to employ the REBOA resuscitative procedure in a non-hospital environment.

A six-member SOST is composed of an emergency physician, general surgeon, nurse anesthetist, critical care nurse, surgical technician and respiratory therapist.

Mitchell was cited for leadership when the team was posted to an austere location in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, treating multiple patients at a field casualty collection point while undergoing a mortar attack within 250m.

'In a SOST, you get to work with some of the best medical care providers in the military,' Mitchell said. 'We operate at a high level of readiness and focus, and my team reflects the highest professionalism under extreme conditions.'

The team members serving with Mitchell in Operation Inherent Resolve were Lt Col Matt Uber, Maj Justin Manley, Maj Nelson Pacheco, Capt Cade Reedy and Technical Sergeant Richard Holguin.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham first became home to a SOST in 2010, allowing the team to work in the hospital’s Level 1 trauma center when not deployed overseas, which helps members hone their skills and build team cohesion.

The university hosts personnel from three SOSTs, whose members rotate between active military deployments and regular shifts at UAB Hospital.
 

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