Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) cause 60% of all UK fatalities in the current campaign in Afghanistan. Shorter evacuation timelines now deliver patients at the edge of the physiological envelope of survivability meaning that the available time period for haemorrhage control and initial wound surgery is short – often no more than 75 minutes. The concepts and practise of ‘right turn resuscitation’, damage control general and orthopaedic surgery, on-table ‘ITU’ pause/catch-up and then further resuscitative surgery are commonplace. In Helmand in 2011, multiple team operating is now the norm on these casualties with up to seven surgeons and three anaesthetists simultaneously involved in the operative care of one patient. This usually involves one consultant orthopaedic surgeon and trainee per lower limb, a plastic surgeon on the upper limb or face/eyes and two general surgeons obtaining proximal vascular control or in-cavity haemorrhage control. A combined meeting in 2010 of the Lower Limb and Torso Trauma Working Groups of the Academic Department of Military Surgery and Trauma produced 25 clear, didactic statements to provide advice to the consultant team. The fundamental message is that bleeding is always a surgical problem. Some adjuncts are available; pressure (direct and indirect), compressive bandaging, haemostatic dressings and tourniquets. However, only formal surgical control, by whatever means is definitive. Early proximal control is mandatory: in all cases, rapidly obtain the most distally appropriate proximal control above the zone of injury.
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