Study: 25% of troop deaths were potentially survivable

Simply put, the military needs to focus on improving its immediate response to injuries — and get better at treating wounds in the field. Troops are now rushed into trauma care faster than ever before, thanks to improvements in military medicine and rescue operations. But another speed increase could means hundreds more lives saved. The study reveals that 90 percent of the 4,596 deaths happened before the wounded servicemember reached a medical facility. Only 506 made it to a medical center before dying. All of these numbers were presented by Col. Eastridge to the Defense Health Board on June 25.

Studies like this one can have a major impact, potentially. “There’s a tremendous amount of information we can gain and potentially improve clinical care if we know why casualties die on the battlefield,” said Col. Eastridge. He referred to tourniquets as a perfect example. Using tourniquets was previously discouraged to avoid limb loss, until the Trauma Combat Casualty Care strongly recommended their use. It’s a policy change that resulted in a significant drop in hemorrhage-related deaths, from 26 a year to 9.

These are the kinds of deaths where there’s the most room for improvement; 90 percent of preventable deaths were caused by “bleed-outs.” And in fact, this is the area where the military has focused the most lately, introducing two new devices meant to prevent “bleed-outs.”