Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Thursday, June 30, 2022

Battlefield Surgeons Add Data to Trauma Kit 

In hostile territory, even the most unsuspecting of circumstances can put service men and women in danger. But in addition to the combat helmets and armored vests, troops are now turning to data to keep them safe in the battlefield.

At the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, surgeons have created a database called the Joint Trauma System (JTS) to collect information on anything from patient injuries and treatments to their outcomes following discharge.

“We realized we were generating all this data and that we needed to put it in a system,” says Col. Jeffrey Bailey, director of the JTS. “If you want to start talking about probabilities of treatment success, you need to start talking about populations of patients. This system quantifies care more than on a patient-by-patient basis.”

Bailey continued, explaining when troops went overseas in 2001, trauma surgeons saved lives thanks to their experience in civilian emergency rooms, but had trouble when it came to improving their methods for all patients coming in with particular injuries. So looking back to their original source of aid, the Army Institute turned to civilian digital patient registries that were already helping to better patient outcomes across the board.

Now, the JTS’ real-time database holds over 150,000 records that are helping to bring treatment response trends to light, and ultimately help surgeon’s to select superior treatments and techniques. Bailey says that already it has helped surgeons to better time their surgeries and select drugs that, among other things, can control major bleeding.

“This isn’t a static system, it’s dynamic,” he says. “The information that gets entered in can be analyzed concurrently—data collection and analysis drive near real-time improvement in our operational practices.”

As patients come to trauma surgeons throughout the day, nurses enter their information into the web-based front end of the JTS database. In addition to soldiers coming in with injuries, U.S. military casualties as well as foreign military and civilians also bring information to the database.

“We now link the point of injury to the surgeon to the movement from the forward hospital all the way home. It’s a communication link that gives global perspective to the systems so you can see all the way downrange to actions that might affect an individual patient later on,” Bailey says. “This is about getting up above the level of the individual facility you’re working in—it’s about raising the consciousness of the entire system.”

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