Health In Focus
  • New treatment technique could be used to avoid amputations in soldiers with serious battlefield injuries.
  • The ‘life support system for the limb’ gives doctors the time needed to repair damage and reduce amputations.
  • After successful clinical trials, the technique is ready and could one day be part of the medical kit in every frontline unit.

Soldiers who suffer from serious battlefield injuries usually lose their limbs to amputation to save their life. But a new pioneering new treatment developed a research team at Strathclyde University could avoid amputations and save these limbs. Referred to as the 'life support system for the limb', the technique gives doctors the time needed to repair damage, and thereby reducing amputations. The study was funded by The Ministry of Defence (MoD): Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).
Newly Invented ‘Life Support System for The Limb’ Could Avoid Amputations from Battlefield Injuries

The technique that helps save soldiers' arms and legs, if they sustain major traumatic combat injuries is a three-stage method specifically designed for use by combat medics in the field. The technology was built taking into consideration the injuries inflicted on UK soldiers by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Life support system for the limb

The first stage of the treatment is applying a novel tourniquet to the limb. A tourniquet is a highly compressed bandage used to stop bleeding. This applies pressure at different points thereby reducing pressure and damage to specific areas.

The limb is then wrapped with a cooling 'sock' to preserve it from further damage until the patient is be evacuated to a hospital.

Once at the hospital, the limb is placed inside a specially designed protective 'box'. The box is capable of sustaining the limb while doctors attempt to repair the damage. The box has specially decontaminated air in order to reduce infection. The box also continuously supplies the affected area with blood.

Professor Terry Gourlay, head of the department of biomedical engineering at Strathclyde University, said: 'We looked at every stage of the journey an injured soldier follows after injury to ensure our solution was designed specifically for them. The system we have developed is essentially a life-support system for the limb which gives doctors precious time to attempt to repair damage while ensuring the safety of the patient.'

The technology is light weight, weighing only five kilograms, it is ideal for deployment on operations, and use by combat medics.

Moreover, the system could also be used in a non-military setting such as natural disasters or remote locations.

After successful clinical trials, the technique is ready to be available commercially through DSTL and could one day be part of the medical kit in every frontline unit.

'While this technique may not be right for every injury, it is a hugely important innovation which could save the limbs of many more of those affected,' said Dr Neal Smith, Medical Sciences Capability Adviser (DSTL).

References :
  1. New 'life support for limbs' can save soldiers' arms and legs when they suffer serious battlefield injuries - (
  2. Scots biomedical engineers pioneer limb-saving technique - (
Source: Medindia

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