Military medical advances help drive lower US murder rates

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Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

Medical breakthroughs in how trauma patients are treated are driving a murder downturn across the country.

Research done by the Howard-Hopkins Surgical Outcomes Research Center, performed for an article published in the Wall Street Journal, showed that the number of gunshot and stab wounds has increased since 2007, yet the percentage of patients who have died as a result has dropped.

"Everything being equal, people who were shot now have a better chance at surviving than people who were shot 10 years ago," said Dr. James Dunne, the associate medical director of trauma at the George Washington University Hospital.

Many of those advances were pioneered by the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan, where quickly and effectively treating gunshot wounds is critical.

"In peacetime, the civilian community really leads the way in making advances in trauma care," Dunne said. "But during every major war, there are significant advances in the military."

Such advances include the increased use of tourniquets, better blood transfusion practices and new technology to better control heavy bleeding. The biggest factor, though, may be the proliferation of specialized trauma treatment centers.

"People who treat trauma on a regular basis do it much better than people who don't see it very often," Dunne said. "You want to take these people to specialized centers who have a system in place to care for them." - Matt Connolly

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