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Trauma life support in conflict

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 20 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1178
  1. Jon Clasper, consultant orthopaedic surgeon,
  2. David Rew, consultant general surgeon
  1. Frimley Park Hospital, Frimley, Surrey GU16 7UJ
  2. Southampton University Hospitals, Southampton SO16 6YD

    Resources must be optimised for the many, rather than dispersed for the few

    War injures and kills combatants and civilians. Medical resources are usually scarce in combat zones, and doctors must plan to make the most of these resources to minimise death and suffering. Planners seek to apply the widely adopted principles of advanced trauma life support to the treatment of penetrating wounds, burns, and other forms of acute physical trauma on the battlefield. This recognises the critical importance of effective early resuscitation after wounding to minimise the consequences of shock and to improve survival.

    Mortality after civilian trauma has been described as having a trimodal distribution.1 The first peak of deaths occurs within minutes of the event from non-survivable injuries, even with the most advanced medical resources immediately to hand. The second peak may account for some 30% of deaths, in the first few hours after injury. Death is most often due to hypoxia and hypovolaemic shock.2 This group stands to benefit the most from excellence in trauma care. The third peak, of up to 20% of trauma deaths, occurs late after the injury, from sepsis, multi-organ failure, and other complications.

    Does this descriptive …

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