Lessons learned from War

Life-saving measures pioneered on the battlefield are saving lives in the civilian world.

“The very best lab we ever had was Vietnam,” said Trauma Surgeon Juan A. Asensio, MD, who has trained military medical teams and operated on war wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan. “It advanced civilian trauma care like never before.”

Even more lessons were learned in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Trauma Surgeon Bradley Phillips, MD, was chief surgeon at the Baghdad Embassy Hospital and acting chief medical officer when ISIS invaded Iraq.

“We rarely had the equipment we needed or the medicine, fluids and blood products we would have liked to have,” he said. That led to improvising – and learning breakthroughs.

“Many things ‘bleed over’ to the civilian world,” he said. “Tourniquets are the best example of that.”

Tourniquets and hemostatic dressings reduced wartime fatalities from extremity injuries by 80 percent. Bailout surgery and massive transfusion protocols also reduced preventable deaths. And a lot was learned about time and how critical rapid transport is within “the Golden Hour.”

Dr. Phillips said we haven’t stopped learning: “I think expandable fluids and blood product options are going to improve over the next decade, as will our ability to render extreme levels of care in any environment – literally, any environment.”

The horrors of war teach life lessons as well, he said: “I believe we are here to care for each other – stop the bleeding, help heal injured bodies and souls, and get those around us to see just how precious life really is.”

Lessons Learned during Surgery from the War