Haemostatic Dressings

Haemostatic dressings are impregnated with agents that help stop bleeding. The haemostatic dressings included contain products kaolin and chitosan. They are commonly used to control bleeding in the surgical and military settings but their use in the civilian, non-surgical setting is becoming more common. An example is shown in Fig 2 below.

When available and the first aid provider is trained in their use, we suggest that haemostatic dressings are of most value in the following situations.

  • Severe, life-threatening bleeding not controlled by wound pressure, from a site not suitable for tourniquet use.
  • Severe, life-threatening bleeding from a limb, not controlled by wound pressure, when the use of a tourniquet(s) alone has not stopped the bleeding, or a tourniquet is not available.

Haemostatic dressings must be applied as close as possible to the bleeding point, held against the wound using local pressure (manually initially) then held in place with the application of a bandage (if available). Haemostatic dressings should be left on the bleeding point until definitive care is available.

The need to control the bleeding is paramount. The risks associated with the first aid use of tourniquets and haemostatic dressings are less than the risk of uncontrolled severe, life-threatening bleeding. These adjuncts provide temporary bleeding control and rapid transfer to hospital remains critically important.