AITHM James Cook University

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Internal blood loss is a major cause of death following traumatic injury and typically occurs within the crucial first hour before patients can receive lifesaving surgery. While major bleeding in extremities, such as arms or legs can be stemmed through the use of tourniquets, until now there have been few options to prevent abdominal bleeding. Professor Geoffrey Dobson and Dr Hayley Letson have developed a world first ‘pharmacological tourniquet’, which when administered intravenously can treat shock and reduce abdominal bleeding by up to 60 per cent.

This study was published in the prestigious journal Trauma and Acute Care Surgery. The potentially revolutionary drug therapy has applications for both soldiers on the battlefield, and patients in regional and remote areas without immediate access to surgery.

The team has shown that a single small IV bolus of the fluid (ALM) over the first hour, followed by a stabilization drip over the next four hours, reduced internal bleeding by up to 60 per cent. ALM resuscitates the body after hemorrhagic shock, reduces inflammation and protects vital organs including the heart and brain. As the fluid circulates around the body, it effectively kick starts the heart, raises blood pressure, and stops the blood thinning to reduce bleeding.

The treatment has extensive applications beyond the battlefield, providing first response treatment in mass casualty incidents and terrorist attacks, and has extensive pre-hospital applications around the region in tropical, rural and remote communities where access to surgical treatment is limited. To help with translation into the field, the researchers have recently teamed up with trauma surgeons from the US Naval Medical Research Centre in San Antonio and the Trauma Team at the Denver Medical Center in Colorado.