Technology in Military Health
Humanity seems to have an infinite capacity to fight among itself, and war may be considered to be the dark side of humanity. Whatever the reasons for war and conflict all over the world, and people always have different responses to it, there are, perhaps strangely, positive things to emerge from death and destruction.
War has been a major factor in the advance of military medicine, where things that are experienced and learned on the battlefield are catalysts for change and innovative ways of dealing with trauma and severe injuries.
An important aspect of the development of medical technology in relation to conflict is that so many lessons learned have had an impact not just on the military but also on civilians. Not only has battlefield medicine advanced, but there have also been developments in preventative medicine and treatment programs.
It appears that war, somewhere in the world, will never end, but advancements in medical responses are always likely to keep pace with what needs to be done to treat servicemen and women and use those advancements for the benefit of the population as a whole.
Here are some examples of how things were and how they have changed.
In the days of the Civil War, amputation was a common result following traumatic injury. There was very little to replace an amputation – the classic peg leg of Long John Silver and many other fictional or real pirates was considered as the norm.
Today, there have been major advancements in prosthetics that have helped many service members to return to active duty. These treatments include developments in robotic prosthetics, and for those who have suffered hip disarticulation, there are options for vacuum-assisted suction sockets. Amputation is a traumatic experience, and these new technologies can make a significant difference to amputees’ wellbeing and future lives.
Dealing with Brain Trauma
It has never been easy to identify brain trauma for serving military personnel who have been injured, but for more than 15 years, the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command has been analyzing specific markers for traumatic brain injuries and working on therapies to help the body to heal. These include hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which exposes patients to pure oxygen. This increases the amount of body tissue and red blood cells absorbed by the increased oxygen and can help body healing.
Pain is one of the most debilitating aspects of recovery from serious injury, and there are many ways of dealing with it. You will be familiar with basic analgesics for headaches, as an example, but military applications for pain management now include pain relief that does not sedate the patient. This dates back to 2006, and in the same year, US Army Medical Department Center officials approved an advanced regional anesthesia. When patients require surgery, this blocks nerves in the affected areas.
Vaccines have always been a part of medicine in the military, and advances have helped towards vaccines for the general population. The military has had a role in developing many major vaccines, including hepatitis A and B and rubella. This work has been going on since the 1960s, and work has been continuing to vaccinate against other viruses that affect the military but where the research and development will also benefit civilians.
An acute respiratory disease, adenovirus, can thrive in environments that have barracks and many people living close together, with illnesses from that virus often meaning that time for training is lost due to illness. The military adopted a vaccine for adenovirus in 2011 that had been approved by the FDA after many years of testing.
Working with Changes
Medical advances constantly move on as those involved at the sharp end learn more and more about what they can do, what they can’t do, and equip themselves with knowledge and experience that allows them to make the next steps in medical technology. Mark Green of Tennessee is a good example of someone who has experienced war, working as a Special Operations flight surgeon for the army. His experiences led him to found Two Rivers Medical Foundation, a worldwide operation to provide health care to underserved populations.
Health care, whether for the military or civilians, is always evolving. Though many people, probably most, would prefer that there were no wars, there is no doubt that those types of environments have helped advance medical science and brought benefits to not just many of those serving in the military but also to the wider civilian population.