True North Blog

Controlling Severe Bleeding

I have been working on a side project these last few weeks and thought that I would share some of the information that I have gathered regarding it.  It is arguably more geared towards the professional first responder, but it may interest and benefit many of you who are lay responders too.  After all, I am a strong advocate of the principle that, no matter one’s level of training, it is important to continually practice and learn so that one may keep one’s skills sharp and up to date.  Certainly, being prepared to protect oneself when an emergency arises, and to do the same for others, is a fundamentally important component of wilderness survival.

Whether we are professional or lay trained, we all know that in a medical emergency uncontrolled bleeding is a clear life threat.  Sometimes, unlike in the photograph posted above (which I only chose to illustrate a point without upsetting anyone who is squeamish), bleeding can be much more profuse and risks quickly killing you or your patient.  Sadly, this can happen instantly and without notice, whether it is the result of natural disaster, or an act of terror, like a bombing at a public event or a shooting in a movie theater.

Regarding such medical emergencies, I am not a fan of improvisation as some first-aid texts may suggest.  Now, don’t get me wrong, improvisation is a fundamentally important wilderness medicine and survival skill.  But the simple fact is that in certain situations — say, like severe bleeding — your patient is not going to be able to wait patiently for you to “invent” something that actually works.

For example, I am a strong proponent of tourniquets and keep one easily accessed in my personal medical kit (specifically a CAT Tourniquet).  Despite what many first-aid texts still print, and what many still believe, the peer-reviewed medical research has proven that tourniquets are not necessarily “life or limb” decisions to be used only as a “last resort.”  In brief, they are viewed today as a primary tool to control severe extremity bleeding (Consider reading my blog post from October 2012 on this topic, Tourniquet: Fact v. Fiction).

Anyway, thanks to some guidance and input from J.C. McGreehan, a Paramedic with an EMS-Rescue service located near Pittsburgh, I have learned about, and become more familiar with, two other trauma products: the Flat Emergency Trauma Dressing (also known as an “Israeli Dressing”), and ChitoGauze, made by Hemcom Medical Technologies.

Anyway, rather than letting me prattle on about these three products, why don’t you simply check out the video links below.  However, as a WARNING, the ChitoGauze video is graphic as it uses a pig for the demonstration (something that is common in military trauma training).

Of course, I am not now advocating or suggesting that you buy and use these items, nor should this blog and the video links included substitute for actual medical instruction by a trained professional.  Instead, I merely want to make you aware of new technologies and tools.  Heck, I am not yet sure that the Israeli Dressing and ChitoGauze suits my needs or scope of practice … However, I love to learn and share.



Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook and YouTube.

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