Stop the Bleed: Cedars-Sinai Teaches Simple Steps to Save Lives
Medical Experts Urge Public to Learn How to Stop Traumatic Bleeding in Emergency Situations
When he’s not in the operating room, Galinos Barmparas, MD, associate trauma medical director in the Cedars-Sinai Department of Surgery, can often be found at the front of a classroom, demonstrating four simple steps that can help stop severe bleeding in an emergency setting—and potentially save a life.
“You don’t need complicated maneuvers or special skills or instruments to make a huge difference,” Barmparas said. “Make sure someone calls 911, and then apply pressure, pack the wound with gauze—or even your shirt, if you don’t have gauze and the wound is deep—and apply a tourniquet if you have one. These steps can stop a lot of bleeding until the person can get to the hospital.”
The classes that Barmparas helps lead through Cedars-Sinai are part of a national public awareness campaign called Stop the Bleed, established by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma and introduced by the White House in 2015. The simple Stop the Bleed tactics have long been used by the military to control bleeding, but the idea for a widespread public campaign about their effectiveness stemmed from the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
While the original goal was to improve survival following mass shootings, the program has expanded to focus on any unexpected trauma event—think car accidents, natural disasters and falls.
Knowing how to stem the loss of blood is critical first aid knowledge, Barmparas tells groups of trainees, because a person can die from traumatic bleeding in less than five minutes. When bystanders are trained to take quick action, they can become an extension of the paramedics until help arrives.
Injuries are the leading cause of death for people under 45 years old, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and bleeding is a top cause of preventable death among those with traumatic injuries.
Barmparas helped start Cedars-Sinai’s Stop the Bleed training program and is today one of thousands of clinical instructors in the U.S. More than 2.6 million people worldwide have been trained since 2016.
“We hope that Stop the Bleed becomes as well known as CPR,” Barmparas said.
Recently passed California legislation stipulates that all newly constructed buildings in the state must have a Stop the Bleed kit on-site. The kit contains gauze, hemostatic gauze to enable faster clotting, and a tourniquet. Stop the Bleed class participants are also encouraged to purchase their own kit for home and the car.
The average time it takes for an ambulance to reach a location is eight to 12 minutes, and in rural settings it can take longer, said Heidi Hotz, RN, director of Trauma and Emergency General Surgery at Cedars-Sinai, which is a Level I trauma center.
“Cedars-Sinai has many outstanding resources, including the best trauma surgeons,” Hotz said. “But sometimes we see trauma patients that we wish had been brought in just a few minutes sooner, because their lives could have been saved. Stop the Bleed might have given those patients extra time until our trauma surgeons could step in.”
Barmparas and other instructors at Cedars-Sinai lead classes on-site for staff and the public, but courses also are available at schools, offices and in other community settings. They last about an hour and consist of a brief lecture followed by guided, hands-on instruction time where participants can practice applying pressure, packing a wound and using a tourniquet on a manikin.
“Living in California, we prepare for earthquakes, for fires … learning how to stop traumatic bleeding is important preparation, too,” Barmparas said. “It’s simple but a very big deal—apply pressure and you may save a life.”
Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Stop the Bleed Courses at Cedars-Sinai