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SwRI, San Antonio EMS and U.S. Army studying early treatment alternatives for trauma patients

San Antonio -- April 26, 2004 -- Communications engineers at Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) are developing a system to record civilian trauma patients' vital signs and treatment procedures for the first 24 hours after injury as part of a U.S. Army study to improve battlefield triage and trauma response procedures.

Acute blood loss (hemorrhage) and subsequent circulatory collapse (shock) account for about half of all battlefield deaths, and the percentage has remained relatively unchanged since World War I. In addition, hemorrhage is the primary cause of death for approximately 30 percent of soldiers who are injured and die later from their wounds. After being stabilized through surgery, however, the mortality rate for combat casualties drops to 2 to 4 percent.

Civilian trauma victims mirror the military experience; more than 80 percent of trauma deaths among civilians also are caused by uncontrolled blood loss.

Paramedics and first-responders, just as military medics who provide initial treatment on the battlefield, can benefit from an improved capability to predict the need and urgency for life-saving interventions.

To gather medical data for the joint military-civilian study, San Antonio Fire Department paramedics using remote video-equipped LifeLink™ ambulances will receive automated equipment to record and store patient vital signs and also to track any procedures performed at the accident scene, in the ambulance, and later in the hospital during the first 24 hours of care.

"This expansion and automation of pre-hospital data collection will help researchers collect more relevant medical data from a much larger population of severe trauma cases," said E. Sterling Kinkler, principal investigator in the study and a principal engineer in SwRI's Automation and Data Systems Division.

In conjunction with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), SwRI developed the unique LifeLink wireless broadband network that links San Antonio ambulances with emergency room personnel at the city's major trauma centers.

SwRI staff leads the study as principal investigator. The U.S. Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center is funding the project. Other participants include the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research (USAISR) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio EMS, SAFD and TxDOT, as well as Medtronic Physio-Control, which manufactures physiological monitoring equipment.

The USAISR at Fort Sam Houston leads the Research Task Area for Advanced Diagnostics and Triage for the Medical Research and Materiel Command's research program in combat casualty care. The goal is to develop and demonstrate a semi-automated remote trauma triage capability that provides critical casualty information to the battlefield medic. The same knowledge and technical developments supported through this project also will have application in civilian emergencies.

For more information contact Kinkler at (210) 522-3478 or

For more information, contact Joe Fohn, Communications Department, (210) 522-4630, Southwest Research Institute, PO Drawer 28510, San Antonio, TX 78228-0510.

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