Review Article|Articles in Press

External Hemorrhage Control Techniques for Human Space Exploration: Lessons from the Battlefield

  • Stijn J.J. Thoolen
    Corresponding author: Stijn JJ Thoolen, MD, Neural Systems Group, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA
    Neural Systems Group, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA

    Centre for Human and Applied Physiological Sciences, King’s College London, United Kingdom
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  • Maybritt Kuypers
    European Astronaut Centre, European Space Agency, Cologne, Germany

    Department of Emergency Medicine, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
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Published:March 09, 2023DOI:
      The past few decades of military experience have brought major advances in the prehospital care of patients with trauma. A focus on early hemorrhage control with aggressive use of tourniquets and hemostatic gauze is now generally accepted. This narrative literature review aims to discuss external hemorrhage control and the applicability of military concepts in space exploration. In space, environmental hazards, spacesuit removal, and limited crew training could cause significant time delays in providing initial trauma care. Cardiovascular and hematological adaptations to the microgravity environment are likely to reduce the ability to compensate, and resources for advanced resuscitation are limited. Any unscheduled emergency evacuation requires a patient to don a spacesuit, involves exposure to high G-forces upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, and costs a significant amount of time until a definitive care facility is reached. As a result, early hemorrhage control in space is critical. Safe implementation of hemostatic dressings and tourniquets seems feasible, but adequate training will be essential, and tourniquets are preferably converted to other methods of hemostasis in case of a prolonged medical evacuation. Other emerging approaches such as early tranexamic acid administration and more advanced techniques have shown promising results as well. For future exploration missions to the Moon and Mars, when evacuation is not possible, we look into what training or assistance tools would be helpful in managing the bleed at the point of injury.


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