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June 24, 2013

Okla. medics on forefront of giving drug to stop bleeding

Tulsa World

TULSA, Okla. — EMSA medics are the first in the country to use a drug in the field that helps stop internal bleeding.

It's the first time the drug, which has been used in hospitals for years, is being used in a prehospital setting, said Scott Williams, a paramedic instructor for EMSA and Redlands Community College in El Reno.

The drug, tranexamic acid, is used to prevent someone from bleeding to death, he said, adding that it should be given in the first three hours after a trauma.

"We're giving them a much better chance at survival," he said.

The drug has hardly any side effects and has been shown to be effective, Williams said.

Studies have found a decrease in the number of people bleeding to death when the drug is used.

"It's not that we're trying new stuff and hoping that it works," Williams said. "We know that it works."

The drug is not meant to stop bleeding that can be managed a different way, such as with a tourniquet, but it is useful for internal bleeding, particularly from multiple sites.

It works by keeping the body from breaking down clots that form naturally after trauma, allowing the body to start healing itself.

EMSA personnel have been trained on how and when to administer the drug. It is initially given through an IV for about 10 minutes.

The agency hadn't been using the drug previously because medical literature showing its success in this setting didn't exist until recently.

Other EMS units throughout the country will be evaluating EMSA's use of the drug in the field to determine whether they will follow suit.

"It's kind of nice that we get to be on the leading edge of this," Williams said.

Dr. Carl Bergren, a trauma surgeon at the Saint Francis Trauma Institute, said tranexamic acid has been used on the battlefield as well as on civilians and that using it on patients before they get to the hospital is a good measure.

Using it early enough can decrease mortality and the need for blood transfusions, he said.

"For those that meet the criteria it can show a definite benefit," he said.

Copyright 2013 Tulsa World

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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