What is the First Aid Treatment for Catastrophic Bleeding?

Catastrophic bleeding is becoming a part of the public consciousness thanks to increasing numbers of terrorism incidents and incidents involving mass casualties such as shootings and natural disasters worldwide. So, what should we do when someone is catastrophically bleeding?

This blog will discuss catastrophic bleeding, how to manage it and first aid treatments for a catastrophic bleed.

What is catastrophic bleeding?

If a casualty is bleeding so fast that they are likely to die in minutes (such as a major arterial or venous bleed), this is called ‘ catastrophic’ bleeding.

Catastrophic bleeding, however, means the casualty could lose litres of blood. The wound will be ‘gushing’ with blood, or blood may be ‘pumping’ out. We must act immediately to save their life.

How can you manage catastrophic bleeding?

Remembering to ensure that we are safe and the casualty has an open airway and is breathing effectively, the first rule of bleed management is applying direct pressure to the wound. Where there is a lot of blood, we will need to use something to pack the wound and a lot of pressure. Specific bandages, haemostatic dressings, and tourniquets are available that help us do that more effectively.

If we don’t have the correct equipment, we need to improvise with anything absorbent to pack the wound and apply pressure. Bandages and clothing are likely to be the best option. We can also improvise a tourniquet if required by using an application or any suitable strap, with a stick used as a windlass.

How to apply haemostatic dressings for a catastrophic bleed?

The haemostatic dressing contains an agent that rapidly (and safely) clots life-threatening bleeding. They have saved many lives in recent military conflicts.

Life-threatening bleeding should use a haemostatic dressing that cannot be controlled by direct pressure, such as severe wound to the neck, abdomen or groin:

  • If you can identify the exact point of severe bleeding, try to apply pressure, this may be inside the wound. Mop out any excess blood if you can with an ordinary dressing.
  • Tightly pack the entire wound with the haemostatic dressing and pack the whole dressing into the wound if you can.
  • Compress the packed dressing for at least 5 minutes. Repeat this if bleeding persists.
  • When bleeding is controlled, leave the haemostatic dressing in the wound and cover it with an ordinary dressing.
  • Send the haemostatic dressing packet to the hospital with the casualty.

How to use tourniquets for a catastrophic bleed?

A tourniquet is a device tightened around a limb to reduce blood flow temporarily. Tourniquets have saved many lives in recent military conflicts and are now introduced in European first aid guidelines. Complications can occur if a tourniquet is not applied correctly, so training is essential to ensure safe and effective application.

A tourniquet should be reserved for life-threatening bleeding from an arm or leg that cannot be controlled by direct pressure:

  • Apply the tourniquet around the thigh or the upper arm and at least 5 cm above the wound. If the injury is below the knee/elbow, apply it just above the knee/elbow joint.
  • Tighten the tourniquet until the bleeding is no longer life-threatening. And this is painful for the casualty. Explain that the pain will usually subside and is needed to save their life.
  • If the bleeding is not fully controlled, consider direct pressure to the point of bleeding or a haemostatic dressing. Sometimes applying a second tourniquet is required.
  • Make sure someone has called 999/112 for emergency help.
  • Note the application time and ensure you pass this vital information to medical staff. Write the time on the tourniquet if you can.

What is the first aid treatment for catastrophic bleeding?

If someone is bleeding heavily due to a stabbing, shooting or RTC, your help is crucial as a patient can die in just five minutes. The main aim is to prevent further blood loss and minimise shock effects:

  • First, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance as soon as possible.
  • If you have disposable gloves, use them to reduce the risk of any infection being passed on.
  • Check that there’s nothing embedded in the wound. If there is, take care not to press down on the object.

If nothing is embedded:

  • Apply and maintain pressure to the wound with your gloved hand, using a clean pad or dressing if possible. Continue to apply pressure until the bleeding stops.
  • Use a clean dressing to bandage the wound firmly.
  • If bleeding continues through the pad, apply pressure to the wound until the bleeding stops, and then apply another pad over the top and bandage it in place. Do not remove the original pad or dressing, but continue to check that the bleeding has stopped.

If a body part, such as a finger, has been severed, place it in a plastic bag or wrap it in cling film. Do not wash the severed limb.

  • Wrap the package in soft fabric and place it in a container of crushed ice. Do not let the limb touch the ice.
  • Make sure the severed limb goes with the patient to the hospital.

Always seek medical help for bleeding, unless it’s minor.

Where can I find online first aid training courses for catastrophic bleeding?

The Mandatory Training Group is the leading UK provider of accredited statutory and mandatory training courses for all sectors, including health and social care, education, local government, private companies, charitable and third sector organisations.

Alternatively, you can contact our helpful Support Team byclicking hereto tell us your  first aid training courses for catastrophic bleeding.

Online first aid training courses for catastrophic bleeding

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What is the First Aid Treatment for Catastrophic Bleeding? - The Mandatory Training Group UK -

What is the First Aid Treatment for Catastrophic Bleeding? - The Mandatory Training Group UK.

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