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  • Writer's pictureRita Simmons

Military Appreciation Month: Advancing Combat Trauma Care

As Military Appreciation Month comes to a close, we would like to highlight Department of Defense research advancements that have made a significant positive impact on Service Members’ health and quality of life, specifically in the field of traumatic extremity injury. Some say that, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”, and that has proven true for the U.S. Military and their need to develop improved life and limb-saving techniques and devices over the last 18 years of war and overseas operations.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Budd, 4th Infantry Division. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Micah Merrill)

Advances made by the military medical and research organizations in combat casualty care have resulted in the highest survival rates in history for those suffering from significant traumatic injuries. The Department of Defense reports that from 2001 to 2015, approximately 26,000 Service members experienced a traumatic extremity injury, with 1,678 individuals experiencing a major limb amputation. These staggering numbers prompted the Department of Defense to increase research funding to support the development of new in-field life and limb-saving devices and medications and post-trauma care involving orthotics, prosthetics, and rehabilitation.

The Department of Defense has continued to improve the devices and practices used in tactical combat casualty care to reduce preventable combat deaths, particularly those caused by massive hemorrhages. Research into devices such as the tourniquet and hemostatic dressings have saved thousands of lives. Though previously believed to be dangerous, further research into tourniquets resulted in their reintroduction as a staple of combat casualty care, by improving training on safe and efficient use and standardization by using commercial tourniquets. Further research efforts developed tourniquets for previously untreatable injuries, such as the pelvis and shoulder. The Department of Defense also evaluated hemostatic dressings and selected a new field dressing to quickly clot in-field hemorrhage. The combat gauze uses inorganic minerals to accelerate the body’s natural clotting ability and has been credited with saving hundreds of warfighter lives.

The Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment Laboratory at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

In addition to research funding, the Department of Defense also established innovative rehabilitation centers that co-located interdisciplinary care teams together with researchers. Within these rehabilitation centers, the focus has been to provide treatment that optimizes each individual’s level of function. Centers have introduced novel prosthetic and orthotic technologies, including active-power producing prosthetics and exoskeletal orthoses. In-house prosthetists can provide customization of assistive technologies, while physical and occupational therapy is integrated early on to promote high-level functioning. Innovative rehabilitation strategies have also been integrated, including microprocessor-controlled treadmills for fall prevention training and high-end virtual reality environments for task related training. This interdisciplinary approach allows for the Service member to receive the assistive technology and training that is the most efficient, comfortable, and functional for their specific needs.

Through the Department of Defense’s commitment to advancing medical care, assistive technology, and rehabilitation strategies, hundreds of Service members have been able to return to active duty, with over 50 redeploying. These individuals have included Army Paratroopers, Army Rangers, and Marines. And not only has the military benefited from these new medical procedures and devices, such as tourniquets, but these products have been transitioned to the civilian sector for use in mass casualty scenarios and in larger cities with high rates of trauma-related accidents.

This Military Appreciation Month, Novelle would like to celebrate those who have overcome insurmountable odds and those committed to the quality of life of our Service members.


Rita Simmons is the founder and lead consultant of Novelle, where she provides business and research consulting to companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Simmons leverages her drive for innovation and excellence along with her extensive executive and military experience to help business owners grow their business, drive revenue, and achieve strategic goals. When you’re ready to take your business to the next level, contact Dr. Simmons at or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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