Improvised explosive devices have made battlefield injuries significantly more difficult to treat in recent decades.  Wounds caused by shrapnel, as well as internal injuries caused by the force of the explosion, can prove extremely problematic for medics attempting to stop blood loss, and patients often succumb to bleeding with very little warning, even after receiving treatment intended to curb their loss of blood.

The leading cause of death for trauma patients anywhere in the world is a condition called hemorrhagic shock, which occurs when the body loses more blood than it is capable of compensating for.  The reason human beings are able to donate blood safely is because the human body prepares for the potential of severe injury by maintaining a bit more blood that it actually needs to function.  This “backup blood” is called the compensatory reserve, and until recently, medical personnel had no way of knowing if a patient’s reserve had been exhausted until it was too late and the body went into shock.

In order to combat hemorrhagic shock, the United States Army’s Institute of Surgical Research has been working for years on a quick and reliable method of measuring a patient’s compensatory reserve, and in turn, getting an advanced warning before blood loss sends the patient into shock.  Traditional methods of taking vital signs can only give medics, doctors, and nurses an understanding of how the body is functioning right now, leaving them with no idea of how much longer a patient will last before succumbing to hemorrhagic shock and potentially passing away.

“Our research has revealed that the measurement of the compensatory reserve is the single most important indicator for early and accurate assessment of imminent shock,” said Dr. Victor Convertino, a senior scientist for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Combat Casualty Care Research Program. The compensatory reserve, he added, “represents the body’s ability to adjust for the threat of inadequate oxygen in the tissues due to blood loss.”