Life-sav­ing first aid for shark bites

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - Cathy O'Leary

A ground­break­ing Aus­tralian study into first-aid for shark at­tacks has found a sim­ple tech­nique that could save the lives of vic­tims with life-threat­en­ing leg in­juries.

While by­standers of­ten fo­cus on CPR or use makeshift tourni­quets to try to stop blood loss, emer­gency medicine doc­tors told a con­fer­ence in Perth that it is far more ef­fec­tive to put pres­sure on the groin.

Se­vere trauma to the lower limbs is the most com­mon in­jury in peo­ple mauled by sharks, while in­juries to the up­per limbs are rare and those to the torso are mostly not sur­viv­able.

There have been 13 un­pro­voked shark at­tacks in Aus­tralia this year, in­clud­ing four in WA — the most re­cent near Man­durah last week.

Can­berra Hospi­tal emer­gency doc­tor and surfer Nick Tay­lor was prompted to do the study af­ter vis­it­ing the Mar­garet River re­gion amid con­cerns about an in­crease in shark at­tacks and a lack of con­sen­sus about how to per­form first aid. Dr Tay­lor said there were re­ports of peo­ple dy­ing from blood loss from the leg and the use of tourni­quets.

He and col­league David La­mond’s study known as SHARC — stop­ping haem­or­rhage by ap­pli­ca­tion of rope tourni­quet or in­guinal com­pres­sion — com­pared the use of tourni­quets ver­sus com­pres­sion.

Dr Tay­lor is pre­sent­ing the re­sults at the Aus­tralasian Col­lege for Emer­gency Medicine’s an­nual sci­en­tific meet­ing, which starts in Perth to­mor­row with more than 900 del­e­gates from around the world at­tend­ing.

Their study used an ul­tra­sound to mea­sure the re­duc­tion in blood flow in the artery be­hind the knee us­ing a tourni­quet com­pared to ap­ply­ing firm pres­sure on the groin.

“Com­mer­cial tourni­quets work well but not a sin­gle per­son who has been bit­ten by a shark in re­cent times has been car­ry­ing one of them, so in­stead peo­ple of­ten use a leg rope as an im­pro­vised tourni­quet, which is not the best,” he said.

“I had used this other tech­nique on a pa­tient where we man­aged to stop the bleed­ing with com­pres­sion and we thought we could do a trial to see if it worked.

“We found that push­ing in the groin where the main artery sup­plies the leg is very ef­fec­tive and it’s some­thing any­one can do.

“Un­for­tu­nately, a lot of the CPR that peo­ple do just pushes more blood out of the leg.”

Surfer and Can­berra doc­tor Nick Tay­lor.

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