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War Helped Boston Doctors Prepare for Aftermath of Boston Marathon

Update Date: Apr 17, 2013 02:07 PM EDT

There are very few positive aspects of war. However, being in war over the past decade has been considered a credit to the doctors in Boston in the city's award-winning hospitals. Because of the advances in medical technology developed in an effort to keep soldiers alive, Boston's physicians were prepared to keep victims at the Boston Marathon alive - which is why, after two explosions, there have only been three deaths in the wake of the tragedy.

According to NPR, Boston's medical staff compared the aftermath of the Boston Marathon to a war zone. It was an apt comparison; with about 170 victims, many people had sustained damage to their chests and legs that resembled those of soldiers. Aside from severed limbs and limbs hanging on by threads, there were also people who breathed in fiery air, which can cause suffocation, and people with glass and metal stuck in their necks and chests.

However, Boston was prepared. Like in many big cities, many hospitals in Boston perform regular disaster drills that meant that they were prepared. In addition, as MSNBC points out, medical technology over the past decade, both high-tech and low-tech, have ensured that more people stay alive than ever before.

Tourniquets, for example, have been employed since the second century B.C.E., but fell out of favor during the 20th century, as people worried that they could cause loss of limbs unless they were used as a last resort. Studies have found that fear is unnecessary; in fact, 87 percent of people who did not receive tourniquets bled to death.

Doctors have also learned from war that synthetic clotting systems, used for patients with hemophilia, can be used to help trauma victims. In addition, combat surgeons have transferred to civil doctors a technique for helping keep extremities.

However, oftentimes, even the best techniques can leave a person with a limb that does not feel anything if the nerves do not connect. As a result, doctors would need to simply amputate the limb later. Oftentimes, doctors think that it would be in a patient's best interest to amputate the limb immediately after the trauma, especially with the improvement in prosthetics. Indeed, though the medical response has been astounding, many victims will leave the hospitals missing extremities like their legs. Regardless, according to the New York Times, they feel lucky to leave the hospital alive at all.

The recovery process will likely be long; many victims have just received the first of the surgeries to come. The Huffington Post reports that many victims may not have physical damage, but may develop brain injuries similar to those of NFL athletes and soldiers. Still, many likely feel lucky to be alive; Newser reports that 100 people have already left Boston hospitals.

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