First Aid tip to help control bleeding with impaled objects

A common first aid action that on-site first aid providers may be asked to help with, prior to the arrival of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel on the scene of a traumatic accident, is to help control bleeding. From minor cuts, bleeding control is often a matter of just applying some pressure with a dressing until the bleeding stops, which usually only take a couple of minutes.

With a more serious injury, however, it may be necessary to take more steps, particularly when the injury is caused by an impaled object, as was recently the case in a workplace injury in Pennsylvania (see http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/01/us/chainsaw-accident-survivor/ for more of the story).

For any emergency, including a victim with an impaled object, the first thing is always to make sure the scene is safe for you to take action; you cannot help if you yourself become a victim! Of course, for an injury where an object is impaled into the victim’s body, EMS should be activated by calling your local emergency response number (in the US, usually 9-1-1).

Next, impaled objects should be left in place, rather than removed, as the object itself may be helping to control any bleeding simply by being in the way. As in the linked article, above, the workplace first aid action was to leave the object alone, and secure it—both for safety as well as for bleeding control—while EMS was still responding to the scene.

If there is bleeding around the object, placing dressings around the edges of the object will help control bleeding, and securing these dressing in place along with the object will have the added benefit of providing some support to the impaled object, helping it to stay more stable and possibly preventing further injury.

With some impaled objects, it may not be possible to hold direct pressure on the bleeding without possibly causing further injury; in a case like this, putting dressings around the edges of the object and securing them with bandaging may be the only way to provide any pressure.

Remember: quick, safe action can have tremendous impact on how well a victim does after a injury. Apply direct pressure with a dressing when possible, and leave impaled objects where they are until someone with more advanced training (preferably, the responding EMS agency) takes over.

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