Dealing with catastrophic bleeds


Responding to an incident is often a three-pronged approach by the police, ambulance and fire services across the country, with the police often being the fastest to the scene due to their routine patrols.
Every year, more than five million lives are lost due to extreme blood loss. That number is expected to be in excess of eight million by 2020, with road traffic accidents, homicides and suicides cited as the main causes by the World Health Organization (WHO). This is currently around 1 in 10 mortalities.
When major blood loss occurs, a fast response is critical to the potential outcome of the victim. Whether it be an automotive incident or an act of violence, there is added emphasis on the UK's police forces to be able to react, stem bleeding and provide care to the victims of these incidents, before the paramedics arrive on the scene.

Act quickly and secure the area

If an ambulance is yet to be summoned, one should be radioed in as soon as possible. As crucial as first aid is to survival, it's only the first step, and the faster the victim is in the hospital, the better the outcome.
Ensure that the scene of the incident is secure to prevent any further injury, cordoning off areas as necessary to prevent any more civilians being involved in the emergency, and begin administering first aid as soon as it is safe to do so, apply pressure to bleeding sites with bandages to control blood loss. Do not remove any foreign objects that may be impaling the victim, this can leave a large open wound and cause more blood loss.
If the victim is unconscious and not breathing, be prepared to commence CPR and defibrillation. Ensure your AED is within close proximity.

Critical first aid products

There are three steps to controlling blood loss, in a process known as the Haemostatic Control Pathway, depending on the severity of the situation. If you're finding that regular trauma dressings are not controlling the blood loss, the second step to take is to apply haemostatic dressings and maintain pressure.
Haemostatic dressings are lined with special coagulating agents that help promote blood clotting at the site of the wound. In most cases, the first two steps are sufficient in stemming blood loss, but if the victim has suffered from amputation or mangled limbs, a tourniquet is necessary to help save a life.
Although somewhat controversial, falling in and out of practice over the years, in the case of extreme wounding and blood loss, the benefits of stopping blood loss outweigh the potential complications of using a tourniquet, such as nerve damage. They are only to be used when completely necessary, however.

Extra measures

Keep the victim warm with an emergency foil blanket as body temperature can decrease with extreme blood loss and/or shock, leading to hypothermia. With every degree that body temperature decreases, enzyme activity decreases by around 10%, meaning blood clotting is compromised when body heat is below 34°C, leading to further bleeding.
If the victim is conscious, try to keep them hydrated, calm and comfortable. It is better that they remain sitting or lying down, with any wounded limbs raised above the heart to reduce blood pressure.

Be prepared

When it comes to responding to extreme blood loss, it's vital to be prepared beforehand. Comprehensive training and having the first aid products available are key factors that determine the effectiveness of the response.
Since 2013, the UK's blue light services have been welcome to the national procurement framework appointed to Aero Healthcare, eliminating the red tape of procurement and granting instant access to the first aid consumables and life-saving equipment they require.
Click here to download our guide "Navigating procurement in the Emergency Services" and discover how police services, such as The Metropolitan Police Service, have benefited from being onboard.


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