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First-aid technique helps prevent shark attack deaths

Photo: Dr Nicholas Taylor

A SIMPLE new first-aid technique could help avoid fatalities from shark attacks, according to a new ANU study. 

The method involves a bystander using their own bodyweight to make a fist and “push hard between the hips and the bits”.

Lead author, surfer, emergency physician and associate Dean of the ANU Medical School, Dr Nicholas Taylor, said the method reliably stops or reduces blood loss by using immediately available resources to treat lower limb haemorrhage.

“In shark attacks, most people don’t actually get bitten twice and they can make it back to the shore,” Dr Taylor said.

“I thought, if you make it to the beach with a friend and they’re bleeding from the leg, what would be the best thing you could do?

“I knew from my background in emergency medicine if people have massive bleeding from their leg, you can push very hard on the femoral artery and you can pretty much cut the entire blood flow of the leg that way.

“If someone has been bitten on their leg, you only need to find the middle point between the hip and the genitals, make a fist and push as hard as you can.

“We found people can do this for a long period of time and making a fist covers the area you need. It’s not hard to find. It could even be marked with an X on a wetsuit.”

The method requires bodyweight to be applied via a fist to the midpoint between the hips and the genitals, the mid inguinal point. It stops blood flow to the lower limb by compressing the femoral artery.

The study, published in Emergency Medicine Australasia (EMA), compared artery blood flow of 34 healthy people when the midpiont was pushed by bodyweight compared to an improvised tourniquet made with a surfboard leg rope.

The study showed this easily taught first-aid technique stopped 100 per cent of blood flow in 75 per cent of participants. Blood flow was stopped on average by 89.7 per cent by making a fist and pushing hard on the midpoint, compared to using a leg rope tourniquet, which only reduced blood flow by 43.8 per cent.

“Most people could completely stop all blood flow. This new method saves time and works better than using a leg rope or looking for something else to use as a tourniquet,” Dr Taylor said.

In the study, comparisons were also done with and without wetsuits, which had no significant influence.

Dr Taylor hopes his new method can now be used at beaches not only across Australia but around the world.

“It is easy to do and easy to remember – push hard between the hip and the bits and you could save a life,” Dr Taylor said.

“I want posters at beaches. I want to get it out in the surf community. I want people to know that if someone gets bitten you can pull out the patient, push as hard as you can in this midpoint spot and it can stop almost all of the blood flow.”

Dean of the ANU College of Health and Medicine, Professor Russell Gruen, a trauma surgeon whose worked in Australia’s largest trauma centres said: “Saving lives is often about stopping the bleeding in time, and when every second counts, simple measures that anyone should be able to do at the scene can be the difference between life and death.”

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

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