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News | Aug. 4, 2014

JTF-Bravo Medical Element Receives Focused Assessment with Sonography for Trauma Training

By U.S. Army Sgt. Catherine Tharpe Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element

Joint Task Force-Bravo's Medical Element received training from professors and residents from the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences on ultrasound Focused Assessment with Sonography for Trauma Training (FAST) from July 19-24, 2014.
Students were able to attend the lecture and hands-on training at MEDEL and at local hospitals in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Many people are familiar with ultrasound due to its use in obstetrical care to see what babies look like inside of a mother's womb. However, ultrasound can be used in many other ways in hospitals to help treat and care for patients. The purpose of the FAST bedside ultrasound exam in the trauma setting is to identify the presence of free fluid, usually blood, in the areas in and around the heart, abdominal cavity, and lungs. The exam takes 60-90 seconds to perform and helps healthcare teams quickly identify if a patient has internal bleeding or fluid in the lungs, which can rapidly speed up the time it takes to save a patient's life. Other benefits of using the FAST exam are identifying soft tissue infection, identifying muscular/skeletal injuries, and locating a hard to find vein if a patient is severely dehydrated.

"MEDEL has limited diagnostic resources for imaging and for specialty care we have had to refer patients to the Honduran Medical Center in Tegucigalpa for those needs. The FAST training gave our medics, nurses, and physicians another tool to use to assess and triage our service members here at JTF-Bravo," said U.S. Army Cpt. Emily Hollis, a MEDEL physician's assistant. "It also gives us a way to identify abdominal bleeding and we can assess if we need to operate immediately or send a patient to a facility with higher capabilities."

The ability to use ultrasound in FAST exams is an ideal technology for resource limited environments. Ultrasound is relatively inexpensive, extremely portable, and used worldwide. Because of the training, MEDEL has the ability to quickly identify if a patient needs immediate surgery, if a patient needs to be readied for a MEDEVAC, and can diagnose patients here at Soto Cano instead of having patients travel for further examinations to be done at a different facility.

Joint Task Force-Bravo's MEDEL is composed of 64 Army personnel who have come together from across the United States and have provided medical care to more than 8,000 people in Honduras over the last 12 months. MEDEL provides preventative medical care, wellness check-ups, dental care, preventative dental care, surgical care, and physical therapy through local partnerships in Comayagua, Tegucigalpa, and through local Medical Readiness Training Exercises (MEDRETES) which are carried out on a weekly basis. MEDEL hosts many training opportunities with the country of Honduras to build strong partnerships between both countries.