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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 January 2007, 00:27 GMT
Saving the lives of our troops
By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Colonel Hodgetts and his team
Stopping bleeding is a top priority
The death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan stands at nearly 200 UK troops.

But it is likely this figure would be higher were it not for a team working from Birmingham.

Colonel Timothy Hodgetts' team at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine monitor every death in action and serious incident, look at what was done, what could have been done and what should be done in the future to save lives.

Colonel Hodgetts, who is advisor for emergency medicine, covering all three of the armed forces, explained that although body armour has been greatly improved, soldiers' limbs are now the most vulnerable parts of their bodies.

Protection

A soldier could bleed to death in just a few minutes from a wound.

We looked at the figures and realised that one of the biggest causes of death was from catastrophic bleeding and we wanted to change that
Colonel Hodgetts

American figures suggest that almost half of combat fatalities in the field in both Iraq and Afghanistan are caused by uncontrolled bleeding.

Worried by these figures, Colonel Hodgetts' team looked at what could be done and recommended all soldiers should be supplied with a special combat tourniquet that can be used with just one hand - meaning that a soldier can apply it to themselves while still under fire.

Team medics, who make up one-in-four combat soldiers, also get a special emergency bandage - the HemCon bandage.

Colonel Hodgetts said these bandages are vital to stop haemorrhaging. They become sticky on contact with blood and help clots to form.

The bandages are particularly good for wounds close to the torso which are unsuitable for a tourniquet.

Medics are also supplied with another lifesaving device, QuikClot, a mineral poured into the wound to aid clotting.

Every soldier is also trained and given a booklet on how to look after injured colleagues and civilians.

Tourniquet

"We looked at the figures and realised that one of the biggest causes of death was from catastrophic bleeding and we wanted to change that," said Colonel Hodgetts.

"But we did not want to put something into use that was not evidence-based.

"Now we have a tourniquet in use that can be used by just one person, a new field dressing and topical agents to stop severe external bleeding.

"We wanted to make a difference and make sure the best possible care is there and getting to the people who need it," said Colonel Hodgetts.

He has also been responsible for developing training for the management of major incidents, including a course currently in use across India, and the system used at the Sydney Olympics and after the London bombings

Colonel Hodgetts and his team were recently named Hospital Doctor and Training Team of the Year by Hospital Doctor magazine for his work in spotting gaps in provision and training the forces how to use new kit.

Competition judges said: "Colonel Hodgetts should be congratulated for his 'par excellence' training programme that is sustainable and reproducible in different parts of the world.

"It is benefiting thousands of soldiers in many war-torn areas and also civilians in the UK and countries that have faced natural disasters.

"There have been considerable efforts made to address coping with any future major civilian disaster.

"The lessons learned by Colonel Hodgetts and his team are being shared widely and taught at both national and international levels."


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