.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Innovative Israeli bandages saving American lives in Iraq



In the Gulf War in the early 1990s, US soldiers fighting on the Middle Eastern battlefield sometimes found themselves using dressings dated from World War II to patch up their wounds. In the present Iraqi conflict, however, American forces are now using an advanced new bandage, developed in Israel, that can save lives by stopping traumatic hemorrhaging wounds, and can also be used as a tourniquet, or a sling.

The new bandage, called the Emergency Bandage, was developed by First Care Products, a tiny four-man Jerusalem start-up. The bandage marks the first major alteration to field dressings since the 1940s, and has already established its worth.

One of the major causes of death for soldiers at war is not the injury itself, but loss of blood on the battlefield. In the Vietnam war, for example, one in four soldiers died from hemorrhage bleeding or injuries to their extremities. In the current Iraqi war, only one in 10 deaths are attributable to this. One of the main reasons for this is that the US military has changed tactics. In the past, soldiers were taken off the battlefield and then treated for their injuries. Today, they are treated on the spot, which improves a victim's chances of survival. Often it is the soldier himself who takes responsibility for dealing with his wounds.

The Emergency Bandage fits well into the new philosophy of military medicine. In the past, soldiers or medics treating wounds would have to use three or four different dressings to bandage a wound. It was time consuming and often it was difficult to achieve the right pressure on a wound to stop the bleeding.

Ofer Molad, First Care's VP of marketing in the US, remembers how he and fellow soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Force (IDF), would wrap a rock into the bandage to maintain the right pressure.

The Emergency Bandage, however, is an elasticized bandage with a non-adhesive bandage pad sewn in. The bandage has a built-in pressure bar, which allows the soldier to twist the bandage around the wound once, and then change the direction of the bandage, wrapping it around the limb or body part, to create pressure on the wound. Aside from this, the pressure bar also makes bandaging easier. A closure bar at the end of the bandage means that it clips neatly into place and will not slip.

The pressure bar also enables a soldier to use the bandage on complicated injuries like the groin and head, which require wrapping in different directions.

The bandage can be put on with one hand, as Molad deftly demonstrates. "It's a very versatile bandage," he says. "It can be applied quickly and easily by an injured soldier or non-medical personnel for immediate hemorrhage control. It saves time in an emergency situation where every second is crucial."

Certainly the US military thinks so. Last year, the US Army purchased nearly 200,000 bandages for its troops. This year, the US Army purchased 800,000.